Monday, 23 August 2010

The Mandrasta Enigma


So this is it – the finale of series 1! At times I did wonder if it would ever happen, if events would conspire against me and either derail the whole series or at least part of it. Thankfully, that hasn't happened and so (a little bit early too!) the finale is now here. A word of warning: not all questions will be answered. The fact that there are loose threads has been done purposefully (there's another two series to fill!), so please don't be hard on the story if you feel it's lacking in answers. All will be revealed in time. There will also be a bit of a surprise in a couple of weeks time, but I can't say anymore about that yet. Watch this space for more details though!


Ok, without any further delay (except to say please go and comment/vote back on Gallifreybase when you've read it – hopefully nice things!), here is the series 1 finale:

The Mandrasta Enigma

    "This whole business of secrecy – why is it so important that I don't know who you are?" The leather chair creaked as she lay back, staring at the figure obscured on the vid-screen in front of her. "If you want the job doing, I need some kind of assurance that I'm going to get out alright. If this thing does what you've said it will, then I need to be able to take you at face value."
    Static hissed at the other end of the communicator, something that she wasn't sure was the noise her prospective employer made before the translator kicked in or the antiquated nature of the comms system they were using. She had insisted on it – untraceable. Exactly how she liked it. The voice crackled back through the white noise, "The information is in the dossier. Retrieve the object, then use the device we give you to teleport to safety. The coordinates will be pre-programmed."
    She sniffed at this suggestion. "What's to stop you teleporting me into the heart of a sun? Destroying any evidence of your involvement?"
    A gargled rasping noise – which she presumed to be laughter – came from the creature on the vid-screen. "We have no need to disguise our involvement. All will know and bow down before the might of the...."
    She clicked the remote, turning off the screen before another diatribe. "Why do they always think I want to hear their sordid little plans for universal domination?" She got up, un-holstered her weapon, checking the power source, and clicked her tongue as she did so (a habit she'd affected after the time she'd spent so far from home). "No time like the present!" She looked down at the dossier, pushing buttons on her language decoder. "Mandrasta Archive, here I come".
*****
Barbara punched the buttons on the food machine, receiving a bar of something that purported to roast beef.
    Ian was looking at his own 'meal', wondering how the technology existed to produce food in this way. His thoughts were interrupted when he realised Barbara had spoken. "Sorry? Yes, I'm sure he'll be fine. You know what he's like, that gruff exterior. Nothing much seems to trouble the Doctor!"
    "But that's just it! Underneath all that, he is Susan's grandfather, and he does care for her a great deal."
    Ian laughed and was rewarded by a scornful look from Barbara for his trouble. He quickly leapt to his own defence. "I wasn't laughing at that, just that, well, he's still got us! Wherever the Ship lands us next we're bound to be caught up in some kind of adventure – it seems almost inevitable now! Besides, you know what the Doctor's like. He'll step through the doors, out onto an alien world, and his curiosity always overtakes him!"
    It was Barbara's turn to smile. "Yes, you're right. He's always happiest when we're up to our necks in mischief I'm certain!" She paused. "Do you think we should take him something to eat?"
    A cough alerted the pair of them to the Doctor's presence. How long has he been there?, wondered Barbara.
    The Doctor had his glasses on, as if he'd been deep in thought about something. If Barbara was more certain, she could have sworn she could seem the remnants of tears streaked down his cheeks. Not obvious, not something Ian would notice. She decided not to comment, as the Doctor didn't mention whether or not he'd heard their conversation.
    "Aha, there you are!" He said it as if a great detective suddenly finding a clue to a puzzle.
    "Did you want some food Doctor?" Ian ventured.
    It was a few seconds before the Doctor replied, lost in thought once more. "What's that Chesterton? Food? No, I'm quite alright at the moment, thank you. Now, I was going to...now what was it..."
    Barbara ventured a helping hand. "Anything the matter Doctor?" It was a mistake, and she knew it as soon as the words left her mouth.
    The Doctor drew himself up, snapping at her. "The matter? Why should anything be the matter!" He paused, hearing himself. "I'm sorry Barbara," reaching out he patted her hand. "I'm getting short-tempered in my old age."
    "Getting short-tempered!" muttered Ian.
    "But I'm not deaf Chesterton, hmm!" At this, the Doctor chuckled, relieving the tension. Ian and Barbara did the same, feeling the air clear as they did so. They looked to each other, as if in answer to Barbara's earlier question. Things were going to be alright.
    "Well come along, come along! We can't stand here chattering all day!" The Doctor beckoned them to follow him back to the control room. "The Ship's landed!" He turned the scanner control, and a picture of a well-lit room appeared.
    "It looks like some sort of gallery or museum." I don't suppose you've brought us home, she nearly added, but stopped herself on remembering recent events.
    Ian peered at the monitor. "Yes, I think you're right. Not one that I recognise though!"
    The Doctor was examining the readings on the console. "Atmospheric pressure appears normal, plenty of oxygen, gravity...that's interesting. Very interesting. Yes..."
    "What is it Doctor?" Ian's curiosity was piqued. "Are we going to end up floating around the place?"
    The Doctor held a finger in front of his face. "No, no nothing like that. No the gravity here is similar to that of Earth, except...it's been artificially created! Wonderful, quite wonderful!"
    Barbara looked to Ian and the Doctor, both men of science. "So, that must mean...that we're not on a planet." Both nodded. "So...a spaceship?" Ian was unsure, but looked to the Doctor.
    A smile lit up his face. "Yes Miss Wright! A space ship or a space station. No hostile readings..." he pressed the door controls, took up his walking cane from the chaise longue it had been propped against, and ushered his companions through the doors.
*****
    The tour guide stopped at the transmat booth, awaiting the arrival of the last members of the party. He checked the controls, flashing a smile at the crowd already assembled behind him. "We shouldn't be a moment, ladies and gentlemen, just waiting for..."
    On the outside of the booth, a small light changed from red to green, and the automatic lock clicked open to reveal the source of the tour guide's consternation. She stepped out, blonde hair flowing gracefully to her shoulders. She was immaculately dressed in an elegant black number that reached the floor, and as she stepped down it gave the appearance that she was gliding.
    She looked down at the man in front of her, noticing his look of annoyance. She smiled at him, checked her watch and said, "I believe I'm right on time!"
    The tour guide appeared increasingly flustered, checking his own timepiece to ascertain exactly how incorrect she was. His jaw almost dropped as he noticed the time was exactly that of the guest's expected time of arrival. He looked up at her, perspiration coating his upper lip. He was no longer angry, but anxious. This woman was unnerving him, and that was no good for his professional demeanour.
    She could see precisely what effect she was having on him, so beckoned him close enough for her to whisper into his ear, "Deep breath, steady your hands...relax!"
    He did as she instructed, and found himself calming, his breathing slowing, normality returning....He mouthed a 'thank you' to her, to which she winked, and turned back to the group once more.
    "Now we are all here," he gestured to the new arrival, "let us commence the tour! Welcome to the Mandrasta Archive!"
*****
    Ian looked to the Doctor. "Mandrasta Archive? Ring any bells with you Doctor?"
    The Doctor was busy studying a glass case, or rather the label that was attached to it. "Hmm...eh, what's that Chesterton?"
    Barbara was equally fascinated by another exhibit, studying the manner in which it was displayed in addition to the object contained within. She however heard what Ian had said, and relayed it to the Doctor. "Mandrasta Archive I think Ian said."
    "Well, it appears to be some kind of museum, but not one that I've encountered before." He turned to look at another case. "Just look at that!"
    Ian moved to the Doctor's side, looking into the glass case. Within, stood a tall metallic figure, an axe held tightly in its grasp. "It looks like the tin man from The Wizard of Oz!" Ian remarked. "Except...is it me, or doesn't it have a face?"
    The Doctor was tapping a finger to his chin in quiet contemplation. "No, no, nothing you'd call a face. It probably has a different sensory system, micro fibre-optics and the like."
    Barbara looked to Ian mouthing 'micro fibre-optics' in a puzzled way. Ian shrugged and walked after the Doctor who'd already starting moving to the next case.
    Barbara stayed where she was, looking into space directly in front of her. Ian noticed she hadn't moved and walked over to her, trying to discern what it was that she was staring at. She was looking through what appeared to be a window, but through it was nothing but blackness. No stars as he would have expected, but never-ending darkness.
    "Well that's impossible, isn't it? No stars in the middle of space?" Barbara turned to Ian to see he was just as perplexed. "I mean, no matter where we've been in the galaxy, we've always seen stars, haven't we?"
    Ian stood thinking for a moment. His scientific mind wondered what to make of it. "Unless we're not in space. Maybe we're in some sort of chamber. Maybe the Doctor's got it wrong. It wouldn't be the first time would it?"
    Barbara smiled. "I suppose you're right." She scanned the rest of the – admittedly sizable – room. "Where is he? His scientific curiosity has got the better of him I suppose."
    Before Ian could respond, three burly looking men were approaching them, all carrying some kind of weapon. They'd both been through this scenario before and immediately put their hands up.
    The men fired at the pair of them, and the last thing either of them saw before falling into unconsciousness was the other sinking to the floor in a stupor.
*****
    "Now this exhibit here..." The tour guide had relaxed into his regular role once more, though hadn't noticed the elderly figure who'd joined his group.
    The Doctor was less concerned with the tour itself, rather the information he could glean about his surroundings from listening to the commentary. He noticed a rather striking woman, blonde hair flowing to her shoulders, glance over at him occasionally. He was sure he'd never met her before, assuring himself that while he looked old, he was – relatively speaking – a young man and his memory was as good as it had ever been.
    The party had stopped again while the guide began giving a lecture on the history of the Mandrasta Archive. The Doctor's ears pricked up, eager to establish more about his surroundings.
    "The Archive was originally located in the orbit of the planet Scalintra. Unfortunately the time disturbances in the local area required it to be relocated elsewhere and it was moved to the outskirts of the Valannti system. Then following the rather distressing...."
    The Doctor found his attention beginning to wander. He was now looking into a case in front of him, staring at something which couldn't possibly be where he saw it. He moved closer to the object, reading the display information.
EXHIBIT #497: CONTROL CONSOLE FROM TIME-SHIP 'TARDIS'. EXTRACTED
FROM CRAFT TWO MILLENIA PREVIOUSLY FROM AFTERMATH OF 'TRIXAIORE DISASTER'. ONLY KNOWN OCCUPANT OF SHIP NEVER FOUND. RECORDS INDICATE INDIVIDUAL WAS KNOWN AS 'THE DOCTOR'. NO FURTHER INFORMATION.
    "Impossible, quite impossible!" muttered the Doctor. The woman who'd been looking at him glanced over once more, and headed in his direction.
    "Marvellous engineering," she smiled, ruby red lips revealing immaculate white teeth.
    The Doctor turned to look at her. "Yes young woman, quite so, quite so. What rather troubles me is how it got here!" He pointed a finger at the case. "This 'exhibit' belongs to me!" Before the woman could add anything further, the Doctor barged through the group, heading straight for the tour guide.
    The tour guide was completely oblivious to the commotion the Doctor was causing, instead trying to remember the facts of his script. "...and later, of course, after the Prevayan incident, the..." He had no time for anymore as the Doctor, finger waving sternly in his direction, interrupted him.
     "Young man, what have you done to my Ship?"
    The guide stared at the Doctor in disbelief, becoming as flustered as he had while waiting for the late arrival. "I'm...I'm sorry sir, I don't know what you mean. No ships are permitted, or indeed capable of docking with the Archive."
    The Doctor waved his hands in the air. "Don't be so ridiculous! My companions and I came here in my Ship, which somehow you seem to have sabotaged!"
    The assembled crowd looked on at the scene around them with great interest. The guide held out his arms in protest. "Sir, I can assure you, there has been no..."
    The Doctor pointed back to the case. "Then what do you call that, hmm? Hardly a decorative table now is it?"
    The guide tried desperately to assert some authority. "Sir, that artefact has been within the Archive for two millennia. There is no chance that it could..."
    The Doctor grasped his lapels, drawing himself up to his full height. "Now listen to me young man, I won't stand for this any longer. You are severely trying my patience, and I demand that you take me to see whoever's in charge around here." The guide stood frozen to the spot. "Right away!"
    The woman who'd earlier calmed the man stepped up and looked him straight in the eye. "I would do as he says. He can be very persistent." She paused, a serious look on her face. "And so can I."
    The guide needed no further encouragement, and attempted to usher the Doctor away from the crowd as quickly as possible. Before he could go too far the Doctor stopped and stared at a face amongst the throng of onlookers. "Miss Wright, there you are. Tell Chesterton not to go back to the Ship. These people seem to have helped themselves to it while we've been gone. I'm going to get to the bottom of this mystery." The woman nodded in agreement, then watched as the Doctor was led away.
    What the Doctor didn't see was the woman turn to the person next to her and say, "Poor man. I have no idea what he was talking about!"
    The person next to her flicked her blonde hair over her shoulder, looking at who'd just spoken.
    At that moment she knew that things were far worse than she'd thought.
*****
    Ian coughed and attempted to rub his eyes. They felt gritty, like he'd fallen asleep in a sandpit. His hands wouldn't reach his face though, bound together as they were by some kind of restraint. He looked through the blur of his vision to see Barbara attempting to find something to break her own bonds with.
    As he blinked more rapidly, the room came into focus. It was small, a little bigger than the TARDIS appeared from the outside. On one side was a hatch that let light in, on the other a small table on which was placed a handwritten note.
    "Barbara, are you alright?" he called across.
    She was busy using the corner of the table to try to cut through the straps, and had partially succeeded. "Yes. I've nearly cut through these. Just a few more..." A triumphant exhalation of breath announced to Ian she'd succeeded, and she quickly moved to undo his bindings.
    Hands now freed, Ian rubbed at his wrists. "Do you know, something strikes me as a little odd about all this."
    "Yes, I know what you mean. A place this advanced, and they tie us up with little more than string!" Barbara moved to the table, picking up the note there. "Ian, look at this."
    Doing up his shirt cuffs, he walked over to read it. "Well that's very strange. No name or anything?"
    Barbara checked the other side of the paper, but found nothing. "At least we know it wasn't the museum's security that did this, but we still have no idea why."
    Ian looked at the note once again. "Well, what does it mean? 'It's nothing personal. I just needed you out of the way.' Who would write something like that?"
    "If they know the Doctor, there might be no end of possibilities. I can't think who'd want us out of the way though. The Daleks and the Voord wouldn't be that polite!"
    Ian nodded, and tried the door handle. The door swung open with no force at all. "Curiouser and curiouser. Come on Barbara, let's find out where we are."
*****
    The Doctor was being led through what seemed like an infinite expanse of corridors. He was sure they been going around in circles, recognising the same exhibits more than once in passing. Suddenly he stopped, the guide only realising because of a lack of a second set of footsteps.
    "Young man this is quite preposterous! How long do you plan on leading me on a wild goose chase, hmm?"
    The guide stopped and turned back to the Doctor. The nervousness in his voice had now disappeared, his outward appearance now, while not completely confident, somewhat reassured compared to his earlier self.
    "Sir, the route through to the management suite is the quickest possible, I assure you."
    The Doctor stepped forward, grasping his lapels. "This is pure fiction. I don't believe you have any intention of taking me to any higher authority. I believe this is some kind of diversion, made to distract me from what's really going on here!"
    The guide smiled and turned to his left. "But we're here sir. Just through this door." He pushed open a door which the Doctor could have sworn wasn't there a moment ago. He gestured for the Doctor to enter.
    With a "Humph!" the Doctor stepped through, though the sight that greeted him filled him with dread. He turned back to the door, but it had vanished. Looking around him, eyes wide, he couldn't believe what he saw.
    "No, it's impossible!" He looked to the other side of the room to see a very familiar figure standing there. "What are you doing here?"
*****
    The tour party had waited for a few minutes before realising they'd been abandoned. People had given up any pretence about being discreet now, loudly voicing their displeasure at the circumstances.
    While this was taking place, the blonde-haired woman took the opportunity to talk to the woman who the Doctor had assumed was Barbara. "So that man, the one who left here with the guide, you've no idea who he is? You've never seen him before?"
    The woman looked at her. "No, I don't think so. Is he someone I should know? Someone famous?" There was a definite confusion in her eyes, her thoughts a world away from the place they now stood in.
    "You are...you are Barbara Wright, aren't you?"
    The woman smiled, as if a half-remembered memory were blossoming like a flower in her mind. "Yes. At least I was, a long time ago. But then everything changed. My world collapsed around me. Nothing recognisable in sight, no one I knew or cared for. So I had to adapt. It's amazing what you can learn when you've been away from home for as long as I have."
    The blonde woman reached out a hand of reassurance, but instead of taking it, Barbara pushed it aside and strode towards exhibit #497. "I don't know what this is, but it's what I'm here for, and it's what I'm being paid to liberate from this place."
    She quickly turned, pulling a small object from behind her back. She threw it into the otherwise occupied crowd, the gas pouring out causing them to cough and retch before falling to the floor. She knew the effect wouldn't last long, and that she must act fast.
    She paused. The blonde woman wasn't with the rest of them on the floor. She scanned the room, but there was no sign, as if she'd simply vanished. Turning back to the case, she attached another small device to the glass panel and pressed a button. The glass didn't shatter, merely reverted into sand and fell in a pile at the outside of the box.
    "Very neat! You've been doing this for a while, haven't you?" The blonde woman was standing right behind her, seemingly admiring her handiwork. "I'm guessing some kind of teleport is how you're getting it off the ship. Followed by yourself. And then whoever you're working for is going make life very uncomfortable for those of us left here."
    'Barbara' looked at the woman once more. "But how could you possibly know that?"
    The ruby red lips parted, and the woman grinned mischievously. "Spoilers!"
*****
The corridor was in pitch darkness, Ian feeling his way cautiously along it. The smooth walls gave no indication of where they were going, and there seemed to be no end in sight. Abruptly Ian halted, his hands feeling the edges of some kind of opening.
    "I think we're in luck Barbara!" He tried to force the door outwards.
    Barbara rested against the wall. It felt as if they'd travelled for hours and miles. "I hope so. This place seems never-ending! Any idea where we might be?"
    With a sudden click, the door slid open, revealing artificial illumination. "Maybe we can find out in here!" proposed Ian and the pair of them walked through. The room was dominated by a large screen, which seemed to be the only light source in the room. Rows of chairs were situated in front of it, though all were unoccupied.
    "It's like a cinema. Smaller in size, but..." Barbara strained her eyes trying to see into the darkness.
    "I wonder what the main feature is?" asked Ian, half-jokingly.
    As if in response, the screen darkened briefly, then began to show something. The pair of them sat. Barbara looked to Ian, who shrugged as if to say that he had about as much idea as she did why this had suddenly started.
    A title card announced, "A History of the Mandrasta Archive", followed by what they assumed was the exterior of the craft itself. It looked strange, almost as if they'd seen the design somewhere before, but neither of them could place it.
    A voiceover began. "The Mandrasta Archive, one of the finest collections of artefacts on this side of the galaxy, appeared around the planet Scalintra generations ago. No one is entirely sure of its origin, but speculation has been rife that the craft was abandoned due to some unspecified event."
    "Sounds like the Marie Celeste in space!" commented Barbara.
    "Shh. Eat your popcorn!" joked Ian and received a light punch to the arm for his trouble.
    The voice continued. "However continued time disturbances around the planet caused it to be relocated to the Valannti system, where it remained for over 250 years until the entire solar system was destroyed." Throughout, the images showed the various planets near which the Archive had been located, Ian and Barbara giving appreciative nods and noises as each one appeared. "After this, the Archive briefly stayed in orbit around the planet Prevaya, but again time anomalies and various other factors forced the Curators to relocate once more."
    The screen changed once again, showing an image of a blazing sun. The image changed gradually, and Ian realised that they were witnessing the death of the star. Ian had no idea how they were witnessing it, but he could see the star collapsing.
    "No one knows quite how it happened..." the voiceover continued, but Ian's realisation as he turned to Barbara seemed far more important.
    "Do you know what this means Barbara?" Ian turned to his companion in disbelief.
    "...but the Mandrasta Archive was finally relocated..." the voiceover continued.
    "What is it Ian? My grasp of astronomy was always a little sketchy."
    "...in the heart of the star Gryphl, which had by now become..."
    "The star collapsed. The Mandrasta Archive is inside the star! We're in the middle of..."
    Both Ian and the voiceover reached the same point as one. "...a black hole."
*****
    The Doctor stared intently at the other figure in the room, sizing them up before approaching. "Yes, I thought as much. You know, it's like..."
    The other figure opened his mouth to speak, stepping out of the shadow completely for the first time since the Doctor had entered. "...looking in a mirror. Quite, quite."
    The Doctor and the Doctor stood facing each other, saying nothing for a moment, before realising that there was a far more practical course of action. "Something's gone very wrong here, very wrong. You've crossed over your own timeline!"
    The other Doctor coughed. "Actually, we've crossed over our timeline. That is, well, it's all rather difficult to explain."
    Both Doctors knew what to do immediately. Closing their eyes, fingers resting lightly on their temples, two minds became one from the moment the word "Contact" was spoken.
    The connection was over in seconds, the pair acknowledging each other immediately it had ended. The Doctor tapped his chin thoughtfully. "So what about Ian and Barbara? There was no memory of them, none at all."
    Realisation suddenly hit the other Doctor like a slap around the face. "Susan! She's still on the Earth!"
    The Doctor waved a hand to silence his double. "Yes, yes. I know that. She'll be more at home in the 22nd century I'm sure..." he mused wistfully.
    "22nd century? What ever are you talking about man? Susan is still in the 20th, the 1960s!" The other Doctor looked at the Doctor with a stern look, defying him to contradict him once again.
    The Doctor clapped his hands together and emitted a small chuckle. "That's it! Our timelines – they've gone in different directions!"
    A smile crept onto the other Doctor's face. "Of course! Yes, it's quite clear. From your memories I could see you left the Earth with those two schoolteachers, but I've never met them! The ship started reacting strangely to the local environment, so I was forced to take off!" He paused, a moment of solemnity crossing into the momentary happiness at his epiphany. "Poor Susan, trapped on a primitive world..."
    The Doctor shook him from his thoughts. "She will be alright, quite alright. What concerns me more is why two versions of our timeline have converged."
    "Well isn't it obvious?" asked the other Doctor. "The black hole we're in the centre of has obviously got something to do with that!"
    The Doctor sighed. "Yes, we know the how, but not the why!"
    At that moment, the light in the room went out momentarily, blinking back on just as quickly. The room was different.
    The Doctor recognised it immediately. It was the room that the Ship had landed in.
    And there, in the corner, was the unmistakeable shape of the TARDIS.
*****
    River Song stood there watching 'Barbara' at work as she attached two more small pieces of technology to the exhibit. "Very nice touch, but it's not going to work."
    'Barbara' rounded on River, pulling out the weapon she'd been concealing. "I don't know how you know any of this, unless I've been undermined and they've got someone else in because they don't think I'm capable, but I will use this if I have to."
    The smile left River's face, a look of seriousness descending. "I know you won't, Barbara Wright. You may have experienced so much since you left Earth, but you're not so changed. You're not a murderer."
    'Barbara' held up the weapon in one hand and pressed a button on the comms device she now held in the other. "It's ready. Teleport me out and I'll give you the codes to activate it." She looked at River slyly. "Always pays to look after yourself first." She fired the weapon, River falling to the floor. "And you're right, I'm not a murderer," she said to the other woman's unconscious form, "but you're going to wake up with one hell of a headache."
    A click at the other end of the communicator let 'Barbara' know that her instruction had been received. Yet she didn't move. She turned to the exhibit and watched as it begin to fade out of reality. "They've hacked the codes! I knew this would happen!" She raised her weapon, flicking a switch on the side. She fired two shots, just enough to damage the transporter nodules she'd attached to the machinery. Immediately, the flickering stopped, the console solidifying once more.
    The comms unit crackled again, 'Barbara' just able to make out a garbled message about 'betrayal' and that 'detonation would commence in fifteen minutes.'
    She sighed, looking at the prone figure on the floor. "Oh alright!" she said aloud, as her conscience told her what she knew she would always do anyway. She grabbed River under her arms and began lugging her in search of a way out of the Archive.
    The tour party were beginning to wake up, getting to their feet unsteadily. 'Barbara' remembered the teleport, but again her better judgment – and going against her 'look after number one' rule – took over and she shouted, "Teleport out of here. You've got 15 minutes before this place is completely destroyed."
    Word spread fast throughout the crowd as they rushed to the teleport booths, one hitting an emergency alarm button to let anyone else in the station know that something was gravely wrong.
    I'm really not cut out for this, thought 'Barbara', realising that her only hope of escape might now be cut off completely.
*****
    Barbara looked to Ian, concern evident on her face. "Well what does it mean Ian?"
    Ian rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Well whoever's built this place has obviously managed to stabilise it here. So, as long as nothing disrupts our surroundings..."
    At that moment the alarm sounded, cutting through any conversation the pair might have had.
    "I think you spoke too soon! We've got to get back to the TARDIS!"
    Both of them ran to the door in panic. "We're going to need a bit of luck of on our side. We still don't know who put us here, or why," rationalised Ian. "We've got to find the Doctor, and the Ship, and we've no idea what that alarm means!"
    "I don't suppose it could be a false alarm or some kind of drill?" Barbara put forward, more in hope than in the belief that it might be true.
    "Who knows? Let's just hope we can get this door open in time!"
    Finding the edges where the door had been, Ian managed to prise it open, though outside the corridor looked very different. For starters, it was illuminated and looked far more in keeping with the parts of the Archive they'd been in before they'd been knocked out and tied up.
    Both of them stepped outside the room and began walking down the corridor, past exhibits they thought they'd already seen. Upon reaching the end, they stepped through an archway, into a room with a large vaulted ceiling, ornately decorated with an intricate pattern of swirls and circles.
    They shifted their eyes back to the room itself, Barbara squinting to make something out in the distance.
    "Is that..? Yes, I think it is! Oh Ian, look!" She pointed directly ahead, and there, in all its blue splendour, was the TARDIS. Barbara made to walk towards it, but Ian held out a restraining hand. "What's the matter Ian? We need to get back there as quickly as possible!"
    "I think we need to exercise a little caution. Look what happened to us earlier. Whoever did that could be waiting in an alcove to do it again! Or..."
    Barbara looked up, a faint smile forming on her face. "....we could make a dash for it!"
    Together they silently counted down from five, then ran to the other side of the room.
    Before they got there, Barbara stopped, unable to comprehend what she was seeing.
    There, mere feet away, was her exact double.
*****
    "Well now, there's a turn up for the books! My Ship!" The Doctor allowed himself another little chuckle and began to head towards the TARDIS.
    The other Doctor set off towards the craft too. "I think you will find that is my ship sir, and it is I who shall be taking it away from this place."
    The two men were walking faster, trying to outrun the other and be the first to reach the door. As they approached, both men removed the key from their pocket, holding it out as if they could win by the proverbial nose.
    Yet the Doctor could not move any further, held back by an unseen force. The other Doctor placed his key in the lock, opening the door. "Your ship must be around here somewhere, and I would take you with me, only you seem to be stuck there and I must get back to Susan, poor child."
    The Doctor reached out a hand. "Wait, wait! You're mistaken – this is the exact spot I landed in! That's my Ship!" His words were in vain, the doors closing and the TARDIS dematerialising before his very eyes.    
    As soon as it was gone, the Doctor found he could move once more, and shook a hand at the ceiling. "I don't know who you are, but when I find out there will be a great deal to say! None of it pleasant!"
    The Doctor strode towards an archway at the far end of the room, just able to discern two figures at the far end. They seemed unable to see him, instead too busy concentrating on another person who seemed to be pulling along the blonde woman he'd seen earlier.
    "Most peculiar," he commented, and hurried through the archway.
*****
    'Barbara' looked up from dragging River across the floor to see her reflection. Though the reflection came not from a mirrored surface, but the face of another person. Another person stood next to someone she knew once. Ian! Ian Chesterton from Coal Hill School.
    She dropped River to the floor rather unceremoniously and stared at Barbara intently. The same look was directed back at her, neither woman quite sure what was happening.
    'Barbara' spoke first. "I'm not sure I really understand what's going on. You are Barbara Wright aren't you?"
    "Yes," answered Barbara. "And so are you it would seem. But what are you doing here? Where's the Doctor?"
    Unnoticed by either of them, River had got to her feet. "A very good question." She smiled at Ian who was somewhat taken aback by the attention.
    'Barbara' reached around for her weapon, but sleight of hand meant River had already taken it, holding it up in defiance. "I wasn't going to let you knock me out again!" She looked to Ian and Barbara. "While we're on the subject, apologies for earlier on. They didn't hurt you, did they?"
    Ian looked incensed. "So that was your doing? What was the meaning of that? We're no threat to you I'm sure."
    River could see that Ian was in no mood to be fobbed off, but equally there was little time to explain. "I know I have no business asking you to do this, but trust me. There was a very valid reason." She paused. "I know the Doctor."
    "And yet I, young lady, have no idea who you are! None at all!" The Doctor took in the scene around him, his mind trying to piece it all together.
    "Doctor!" chorused Ian and Barbara.
    The Doctor shook Ian's hand and patted Barbara affectionately on the shoulder. "What have the pair of you been getting up to, eh?"
    It was Barbara who answered. "After you left we got knocked out – apparently due to her," she pointed to River, "involvement. We found out that we're in..."
    "...a black hole. Yes Miss Wright. That alarm is of great concern though, as are both of these individuals."
    'Barbara' looked to the Doctor. "So you're the one whose name's been mentioned."
    "Yes! And that over yonder is my ship!"
    'Barbara's eyes widened. "Your ship? Well then you can get us out of here. The teleport pods are overloaded!"
    Before the Doctor could say anything more, River spoke up. "Actually, it's not his. Well, it is and it isn't. And I'm sorry I've got to do this, I really am." She raised the weapon that they'd all forgotten about and fired in the direction of the Doctor, Ian and Barbara.
    All three fell to the floor, Ian just managing to utter, "Not aga..." as he slid into unconsciousness once more.
*****
    The Archive was almost empty, the last of the tourists having teleported away; any staff were long gone.
    All that remained were three prone bodies lying on the floor of the main exhibition hall, as the blue box shell of the TARDIS began to dematerialise.
*****
    "This ship, it's extraordinary!" 'Barbara' was still taking in the new environment in which she now found herself. "It's not yours though is it? You're stealing it!"
    River moved around the console, flicking switches. "It's the Doctor's. Just not the Doctor that we left on the Archive. It's from his future. Way into his future." She paused. "But yes, I did 'liberate' it from him, but it's for his own good."
    'Barbara' sat down. "How can stealing someone's transport be good? You've stranded him, left him to his death!"
    Another press of a button. "No, I'd never do that. He'll find a way out, he's very good at that." She smiled, her look then taking on a more serious tone. "Everything that just happened was wrong."
    "You're telling me! I was supposed to be teleported out and receive a rather handsome fee for delivering that exhibit to my employers." She could see River was about to ask the question, so quickly answered it. "No, I don't know who they were. They preferred to remain hidden."
    "Ok, so that's something else I don't know." River sighed. "I need your help. It wasn't part of my plan to involve you, but now you're here..."
    'Barbara' sat back in her chair. "Why should I help you? What's in it for me?"
    River hesitated, then after a few seconds said, "Existence."
*****
    Alarm still sounding, Ian helped Barbara and the Doctor to their feet. The Doctor was dusting himself down, Barbara rubbing at a sore spot on her shoulder.
    "So Doctor, any ideas what the alarm is for?" Ian looked hopefully at the older man.
    "I wish I did Chesterton. As it is I don't know how long we've got left or..." The Doctor looked to the now empty space where the TARDIS had stood moments before. "Unbelievable! That's the second time that's happened! Second, in one day!"
    Barbara looked confused. "Another TARDIS?"
    The Doctor waved her away. "Yes, yes, but it's a very long story Miss Wright. At this precise moment we need to concern ourselves with how we're going to get away from this place!"
    "And they stole the TARDIS because the teleport pods are overloaded! Would there be any other ships here Doctor?" There was hope once again in Ian's tone, but even he didn't really believe it to be possible.
    The Doctor thought for a moment, tapping his finger against his lips. He turned away momentarily, then back, raising a hand in the air. "Of course! I've got it! Though we must move quickly. Ian, Barbara, follow me – we may just get out of this!"
    Far faster than they both thought possible, the Doctor moved out of the room, Ian and Barbara forced to double their pace to catch him.
    "I hope he really does know what he's doing," said Barbara as they followed him.   
    "There's only one way to find out!" Ian added in response, and both began jogging after the Doctor.
*****
    "The black hole. It seems to be the centre of a lot of strands. Timelines, from different realities, all seem to be coming together right there." River began her explanation, 'Barbara' thinking it best to just sit back and listen. "You, for example. You're from a different timeline to the one I know. An alternate version. Somehow something caused you to end up at the Archive, but I don't know what yet."
    "So," 'Barbara' began, "the other version of me, the one we saw, travels with this 'Doctor'?"
    "Precisely. Only somehow you coincided at the same place and time. It's all connected to the Doctor." River pointed to a small screen near the central console. "I've been tracking back through the Doctor's timeline, looking for fluctuations. There've only been a few blips here and there so far, time jumping back on occasion – sometimes big jumps, sometimes small. The thing is, the Archive is the furthest back I've been, and it seems to be the source of it all." She looked directly at 'Barbara'. "But I have a horrible feeling that things are about to get a lot worse."
    "And you need my help. I don't know why you'd bring me along after I stunned you though."
    River turned on the scanner screen. "At the moment, I need all the help I can get."   
*****
    "Come on Ian, the Doctor's leaving us behind!" Barbara was panting for breath, but still hurrying after the Doctor with as much speed as she could.
    Ian waved her on, trying his best to catch up. The corridors seemed as never-ending as the ones they'd been in before. He closed his eyes, pushing his body for another burst of speed.
    As he opened his eyes he had to stop quickly to avoid colliding with the stationary forms of Barbara and the Doctor. They'd halted outside a door, the like of which Ian was sure he'd seen before.
    "Ah Chesterton, there you are."
    Ian paused to regain his breath, then spoke. "So, this door has some kind of significance? I'm sure I recognise it, but I'm not sure where from."
    Barbara nodded in agreement. "Yes, I've had that feeling quite a lot recently."
    The Doctor was examining the handle, offering only a "Hmmm" in response. Suddenly he turned to the pair of them. "Well of course! Indeed, there's something very familiar about it. I have a feeling the answer lies beyond this door."
    Ian looked incredulous. "Is it really the time for investigating mysteries Doctor? We need to be away from this place, and fast if that alarm's anything to go by."
    The Doctor took a hand of both Ian and Barbara's in his own and looked at them with a severe expression. "Now listen, the pair of you. You trust me, do you not?" Both nodded their assent. "Good, good. Well the thing is there are an awful lot of answered questions that I'd like to get to the bottom of, and I have a very good feeling that through that door lie not only the answers but a way out of our predicament. As long as I have your trust we shall make it through this, I promise you."
    Barbara looked to Ian, and then to the Doctor. "Alright Doctor. Ian?"
    Ian shook the Doctor's hand. "Alright Barbara, Doctor."
    The Doctor nodded, opened the door, and the three of them stepped through it.
*****
    A sudden alarm began shrieking, River completely unaware as to the cause. She moved frantically around the console, trying to ascertain the cause.
    'Barbara' meanwhile kept her gaze fixed on the scanner screen. The outside showed the blackness of space, the image of a black hole directly ahead of them. The warning light barriers placed near the hole were beginning to flicker. "The technology used to keep those in place must be the same as that which keeps the Archive stable," commented 'Barbara'.
    River looked up at the screen, unable to find what she was looking for anywhere on the control panels. "Yes it is. But they shouldn't be flickering like that."
    More and more of them were going out, a force causing their disruption as if they were blinking out of the universe itself.
    It was then that River realised what was happening.
    "No, we've got to move. I'm on the wrong side of it, in the wrong timeline."
    'Barbara' spoke. "I don't know much about astronomy, but I'd say that it looks as if that black hole is..."
    "Disappearing. The link between two universes." She stopped, both her and 'Barbara' staring at each other as they realised what else it meant. "And the Doctor's at the heart of it."
    They stared in horror. All the warning lights had gone out. Where the black hole had been, only starlight remained.
    The Archive was no more.   

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Russell Williams – Q & A

As promised here is the interview with Russell, talking about both his series 1 stories and what's coming up in the future – including his own spin-off from series 2....

Hi Russell. You've just seen your second - but really your first - story for 'Consequences' go public. Were you nervous at all about Sunday [Russell's Tenth Doctor story], considering the short time you had to write it in?

Good question. Actually, I was less nervous with this story than I was for the Eleventh Doctor one. With this, I had two of the best characters created in Doctor Who to work with – throw in Wilf and it practically creates itself! But with the 11th Doctor and Amy (and Rory), I was less self assured about them. Obviously, I had the whole of Series 5 to watch back, but when you compare it to Tennant's four seasons. I was a lot more self assured.

I can see how it would be easier in that sense, and I think you've pulled it off very well. So as regards the 11th Doctor, what made you choose to write for that particular incarnation when you first put yourself forward? Did you regret it at any point bearing in mind the lack of 'research material'?

Thank you. I suppose when I initially accepted, I think I was either working on my first script for the Eleventh Doctor Script Series, or had just finished it, so I thought I'd take the challenge of writing for the newest Doctor. As a fairly new writer, I like to challenge myself, and picking a prose story for a newish Doctor is as challenging as it can be. I think I may have had regrets in the early stages of writing, as the series was still broadcasting and I didn't really click with Smith's Doctor and Amy until the end of Series 5. But once it was finished, there was no stopping me, and actually writing in the post-Series 5 timeframe is even more exciting.

What made you decide to include Rory in the mix? Your Tenth Doctor story includes both Donna and Wilf. Do you have a preference for more than one companion, and if so, what is it about the dynamic that you especially like?

I'd never really noticed that trend until you pointed it out, but I suppose I do have a preference for the two companion set-up. I discovered Who in 2005 and I just loved the Rose and Jack combination, and later on the Rose and Mickey combo. Later moving on to the classic series, my all-time favourite combo was Ian and Barbara. Moving to Amy and Rory, I believe it is a more interesting dynamic

to cover, about how they relate to each other and the Doctor in turn. However, Wilf's appearance came out of the fact that the scene on the hillside was the first thing I thought about with this story. And let's face it, who doesn't love Wilf?

Indeed! Your series 2 story has another double companion team (I won't reveal it here though – spoilers!), but your series 3 story only features one. How do you think this will affect the story? Will it change the way that you write it?

I'm not too sure really. My series 2 story will actually have the Doctor travelling with three companions for a time, so that will add an extra element to the dynamic. I believe that the 10th Doctor and Martha had an interesting relationship anyway, and the "random elements" in my story will alter the dynamic of that relationship. But as you say, we can't discuss too much.

Do you have a particular preference for the new series Doctors, or do you think you'd be happy to write for any of the other incarnations? If so, who would you like to try next?

I think that the new series Doctors are the ones that I am more familiar with, and Tennant is my favourite or second favourite Doctor depending on what day it is, and what story I'm watching. But I won't limit myself, I mean I'd seriously consider writing for the 4th Doctor, my alternate favourite/2nd favourite. He's just so mad and zany, and I absolutely love that, especially with Romana and K9 in tow. Barring that, I'd consider writing for the 1st Doctor with the aforementioned Ian and Barbara combo. Certainly a challenge.

So, what else do you have coming up? I believe you've got another 11th Doctor script coming soon. Can you talk about it at all?

Well apart from the stories from the next two series of Consequences, I do indeed have another script for the 11th Doctor Series. Not too much to say about it at the moment due to the fact that I haven't started writing, but it's entitled "Terror from the Deep" and is a story set in the present day, and features some nasty beasties at the bottom of a pond or lake. In fact some of the ideas for the script grew out of my original ideas for this short story.

Very intriguing! I know we talked before - briefly - about a series spun off from your series 2 story. Is this something you think might happen?

Oh definitely, I was so fired up about it when you originally detailed the brief to me. Mad, barmy old me, I've planned out the whole series practically. The twists and turns, companions, and more importantly, the regenerations. I have to get this off the ground!

When do you think this might happen, and what form will it take?

Hopefully, I can start something rolling towards the end of the year. As for the form, I'm not too sure yet. Ask me a month or so ago and I'd have immediately said script form, but after working in prose and seeing that I can actually do it, it's seriously made me reconsider that position.

What do you see as the benefits of each form? Why did you originally prefer script form?

I suppose my preference for script form originally came from the fact that you don't have to put in flowery descriptive language, which I hate, and don't consider myself to be an expert in. However, I've learnt that you don't have to use it in prose. In fact I believe my style of writing (thus far) has been very straight-forward. This happens, that happens, he does this, she looks like that, bang, bang and you're done. I must admit, I like writing dialogue, so my preference would still hinge on script form, but I can certainly see the more relaxed and varied style of prose.

A few quick final questions to end then.

Favourite Doctor and why?

Oh that's a tough question. It's like picking your favourite child, but it has to be either Tom or David, depending on what day it is.

Favourite companion and why?

Favourite companion has to be Miss Donna Noble. She had everything, she was funny, she could break your heart and she stood no nonsense from the Doctor. She had that rapport and friendship with the Doctor that hadn't been seen since the 2nd Doctor and Jamie. It's certainly a testament that it's been over two years since her memories were erased and I still often feel sad and even teary whenever I catch a Series 4 repeat.

Top 5 Doctor Who stories? Why do you like them?

Top 5, sweet lord. I'd certainly rate The Daleks' Master Plan as possibly my number one favourite – it was the longest serial ever (until The Trial of a Time Lord) and it was so epic! Throw in Mavic Chen, Daleks and the Meddling Monk. Top! This is so difficult, but obviously The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Pyramids of Mars have to be in there. Hinchcliffe-Holmes era, never a better time. Love

gothic-ness and the mummies and the Victoriana. Remembrance of the Daleks also comes pretty close, the best serial of the 1980s, steeped in nostalgia and the Daleks were good for the first time since 1967. To round it off for the new series, I'd probably go for Midnight. So gripping, so scary. RTD's finest script.

Favourite author/s? Favourite book/s?

Weirdly, I'm not a great fan of reading. The only reading I generally do is for tie in fiction relating to Who or Star Trek. On the Trek side my favourite authors have to be David Mack, Keith R.A. DeCandido and David R. George III. Mack and DeCandido for the excellently suspenseful Wildfire and George for Crucible: Provenance of Shadows. Excellent read, bit of time travel, brilliant.

How about for Who then?

I've not read many Who novels, but from what I have read, Terrance Dicks obviously gets kudos for his Target novelizations and Timewyrm: Exodus, a great novel featuring the War Lord and an alternate reality story where the Nazis have conquered Britain. Add into that World Game, a sequel to The War Games, featuring Napoleon. Also the 8th Doctor novel Genocide, which sees the return of Jo Grant.

What do you like about Doctor Who? What keeps you hooked?

I like the variety, which in my eyes, makes it head and shoulders above all competition. One minute you're in the year 100,000 BC, then you're on Skaro then in 13th century China. It keeps the programme fresh and keeps me coming back for more. Add to that, the distinct British-ness of the Doctor. He isn't an ultra-cool sophisticated action hero, he's an average guy, bumbling around in a stolen time ship, and who leaves the brakes on.

And lastly, what would be your top writing tip?

My top writing tip would be to keep challenging yourself. Even when you hit a block, try and keep going, but if not, go for a walk, listen to some music, clear your head. Plus, a second opinion never hurts. I've had work which I thought was crap and someone else has thoroughly enjoyed it and told me how brilliant it was. Perseverance is the key.


 

Russell Williams, thank you very much.


 

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Purity


The penultimate tale of series 1, and another cracking story from Russell Williams. An interview with Russell will be up in the next couple of days too, so please come and read that too! So, before the end, here is:


Purity
by Russell Williams
Featuring the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams

 
"Don't worry, Your Majesty," the Doctor looks at Amy and Rory meaningfully, "we're on our way."
The Doctor places the phone back on the receiver embedded in the TARDIS console, and begins setting his magnificent time machine on a new course, maddeningly pressing buttons, pulling levers and making a lot of noise in the process. The newly-weds, Amy and Rory look-on in amusement, sharing a loving glance and anticipating the great adventure that they are about to embark upon.
With the TARDIS' course set, the great temporal engines whir into action and the great blue machine disappears from Leadworth once again and enters the great oranges and grays of the time vortex.
----------------------------------------
Aboard the Reflaine freighter Pentarth, all is quite on hangar deck 17-J. Nothing is stirring, not even a mouse. Then all of a sudden the deathly silence is shattered by a large screeching noise, sometimes described as the "sound of the universe". The VWORP-VWORP noise continues for a few seconds, until the TARDIS appears, the end of its materialization sounding with a large bump.
Out of the TARDIS step the Doctor, Amy and Rory, now changed out of their wedding outfits and sporting more suitable attire for adventuring about. The new arrivals stare around at their new surroundings, Amy and Rory still slightly awed by the amazing sights than can be found while traveling with the Doctor.
"Here we are then, the Orient Express... in space!" The Doctor boasts, smiling as he does so.
Amy glances around at all of the cargo crates lying around the hanger deck, seemingly unconvinced. "It's a bit raggedy isn't it? I thought for my honeymoon, you'd take me up to the top deck. Y'know mingle with the toffs, drink champagne."
Rory looks, clears his throat and glares at Amy. "Our honeymoon."
Amy glances over at Rory and blows him a kiss, seemingly pacifying him for now. Meanwhile, the Doctor looks around at the various packing crates, glancing at the labels and prying some open to examine the contents. Following the Doctor's example, Rory also begins looking at one of the crates and sees that the label states the ship's name as Pentarth.
"Doctor, I thought you said that this was the Orient Express? But this label says the Pentarth."
The Doctor walks over to Rory and examines the label. He then turns to Rory, a smile forming. "Well done, Rory. You've noticed that too. We're not where we should be."
"Oh, don't tell me you've put us down in the wrong place again." Amy moans.
"Well it appears so, Pond. How it happened though I have no idea. I set the coordinates for the Orient Express, so we should be there."
Rory appears concerned at the Doctor's statement. "It couldn't be the thing that controlled the TARDIS before could it? Maybe they're going to blow it up again."
"I wouldn't worry, Rory. There was no indication that the TARDIS was being drawn off course, and yet we are. I just need to think for a second."
"Wait," Amy speaks up, "when you were on the phone you said something about a bad line, and sorta flinched before you put the receiver down."
The Doctor considers this for a few moments as Amy and Rory stand around with concerned expressions. All of a sudden the Doctor turns pale and his hands move up to his temples, his companions rushing to his side to ascertain his condition.
"Doctor, are you alright. Speak to me." Rory pleads, his medical training beginning to take over.
The Doctor takes a few more minutes before he finally begins to speak. "Sor... sorry, yes. Blimey. It was those screams. Hundreds of people, their death cries. The poor, poor souls. The poor lost souls of the Pentarth."
With those last words, the Doctor falls into unconsciousness. Amy just catches the Doctor's head before it bounces off of the deck.
----------------------------------------
Meanwhile on the command deck of the Pentarth, Security Officer Leteth is half-watching the security monitors. On several of the screens are displayed the passengers and crew of the vessel, but one monitor displays an image of Hangar Deck 17-J, and of Amy and Rory tending to the stricken Doctor. Leteth just happens to glance up at the monitor and observe the new arrivals as the Pentarth's commanding officer, Gilmesh, arrives on deck.
"Anything to report, Lieutenant?" Gilmesh demands.
"Yes, sir, I believe so. The monitors seem to be showing some new arrivals in hangar deck 17-J." Leteth points to the correct monitor screen, drawing Gilmesh's attention.
Gilmesh moves closer to the monitor trying to observe the screen, before finally admitting defeat and taking out a pair of glasses from the top pocket on his purple and black uniform. Putting the glasses on and trying again, Gilmesh finally spots the trio.
"New arrivals? Impossible, not this far out from Space Central. Have we had reports of any of the "cattle" escaping?"
"None of my men have reported any. The "cattle" or quite content".
"Well obviously your men aren't as well trained as they should be. Obviously some have escaped. Get a team down there. I want them brought in as quickly as possible. If they find anything then our glorious mission could be compromised."
Leteth stands to attention and his station, and then proceeds to leave the command deck, signalling for back-up on his wrist communicator as he exits.
----------------------------------------
On hangar deck 17-J, Amy and Rory are knelt at the stricken Doctor's side. As Rory examines the Time Lord, checking his breathing and airway, Amy looks on, deeply concerned. Assured that the airway is clear, Rory puts his head to the Doctor's chest for a second, before pulling away startled.
"Amy, there must be something really wrong. I... I swear that when I listened for his heartbeat, that I heard... like... an echo."
"That's because he has two hearts, Rory."
"Two hearts? And you never thought to tell me. Might have been a bit helpful."
"Well I'm sorry Doctor Williams. I'm not the one who's medically trained."
"You're right, I'm sorry. Everyone has two hearts, I should have remembered," says Rory sarcastically.
As Amy and Rory continue to argue, the Doctor suddenly bolts upright, checking himself over. Once he is sure that he is unscathed, he glances at his arguing companions, a rather large smile appearing on his face.
"When you two have quite finished, I'd thought you'd like to know that the patient has made a full recovery. I don't know, married five minutes and you're both at it already. Me and Liz were the same."
As the Doctor gets up, Amy and Rory glance at him apologetically, but before they have a chance to speak, they are interrupted by the sound of guns being cocked and the rather loud shouting voice ordering them not to move.
"And here we go again," the Doctor quips.
----------------------------------------
After surrendering immediately to Lieutenant Leteth and his guards, the Doctor, Amy and Rory are led across several decks to a rather spacious interrogation room. En route, the Doctor constantly notes his surroundings, working out the quickest route back to the TARDIS should a sharp exit be in order. Finally arriving at the interrogation room, the three prisoners are bundled into three chairs sat in front of a large black desk and placed in handcuffs. At the sight of the handcuffs, Amy smiles slightly, despite the predicament that has now befallen them.
The prisoners secured, Leteth takes his seat opposite the prisoners, sitting in a larger and more luxurious black leather chair.
"State your names and reasons for being outside of the passenger decks," Leteth demands.
Amy and Rory turn to the Doctor, looking to him for a cue. The Doctor himself begins to smile.
"Hello, yes, I'm the Doctor and these are my friends, Amy and Rory. Say hello." The Doctor beams, indicating his companions.
Amy and Rory both let out quiet greetings, which angers Leteth even more. So much so that he rises from his chair in protest.
"I demand to know how you got out of the passenger areas. You scum were all told that all other locations were out of bounds when you came on board."
"Really? I don't remember that. Still I'm always the same when I'm travelling, forget to read all the safety notices and I'm usually asleep when the hostess shows me where all of the emergency exits are. My apologies." The Doctor gives one of his best fake apologetic smiles.
"OK, what were you all doing in the hangar deck?"
The Doctor goes to speak up, but Amy cuts in, preventing him from incensing Leteth any further. "Yeah sorry, that was my fault. Space sickness. I always get struck with it on long journeys, so I'd thought I'd move about and get some fresh air. Rory and the Doctor just came with me to check if I was OK."
Leteth is unconvinced by Amy's story, but after gaining no additional information from any of the prisoners, he releases them from their handcuffs and orders that they be placed back into the "passenger areas" where they belong.
----------------------------------------
After being unceremoniously bundled into a large-ish reception area by Leteth and his men, the Doctor and his companions begin to take in their surroundings. Unlike the utilitarian, almost military, styling of the hangar deck and interrogation room, the reception area is extremely well lit and is opulently decorated, similar to first class dining accommodations on a cruise ship. Unusually, there aren't any windows or portholes looking out into the cold beauty of space, but there are several large viewscreens displaying images of various stellar phenomena and startling landscapes from various planets across the galaxy.
While Amy and Rory take the time to study some of the pictures being displayed, the Doctor immediately sets out to find some of the Pentarth's passengers. He pulls back one of the large velvet curtains and finds the passengers he has sought, sat down in large luxurious chairs. Humanoid in appearance, the passengers all have their eyes closed and not a word or stray noise is passed between any of them. The Doctor leans in to examine one of the passengers, pulling the sonic screwdriver from his jacket to examine them. The bleeping of his screwdriver draws the attention of Amy and Rory.
Rory immediately looks concerned as he notes the passengers, switching instantly into his medical professional mode. He reaches for the neck of the nearest passenger to check for a pulse. "There's still a pulse on this one, but what's going on here, Doctor? What's the matter with them?"
"Yeah, they all just seem to be sleeping," Amy chimes in.
The Doctor re-pockets his sonic screwdriver, briefly considering before he begins to speak to his companions. "They are, at least in a manner of speaking. I should have realized this immediately after we landed. Must be getting a bit slow in my old age."
"It's been a busy week," Amy quips, before her expression turns more serious. "But, what should you have realized?"
"These people here are all telepathic, that's why they're just sitting there like that with their eyes closed. They're all in silent communication with each other, swapping stories, telling jokes, flirting, everything else that we humanoids like to engage in to pass the time."
"If that's the case, then why do they have all these pictures and what not hanging on the walls?" Rory asks, slightly fascinated.
"Come on, Rory, it's no different for us. We get a bit fed up and need to be on our own sometimes, take a walk, clear our heads and embrace the silence. If you didn't know that now, wait 'til you've been married a few weeks."
A loud cough from Amy brings a quick end to the conversation, and she quickly chimes in with a question.
"Why have they ignored us though? I mean we've been here a few minutes and you'd have thought we'd at least get a 'hello'."
"Because we're not telepaths, well you two aren't anyway, and my abilities are well under control. Simply put, we just aren't that interesting too them," the Doctor explains.
"Well, it's nice to feel wanted."
"Isn't it? Well, I suggest we all take a look around and try and find a way out of here without alerting the friendly neighbourhood security officers, and I'm sure this isn't what you had in mind for a honeymoon destination. Pond, Mr. Pond, you two go and look through there", says the Doctor, indicating another set of partitioning curtains, "and I'll check out over here."
As Amy and Rory move off to their designated area, the Doctor takes out his sonic screwdriver and moves over to one of the far walls of the passenger's cabin. Suddenly, the Doctor decides to press his ear up against the wall and just listens for a short while. He then gets up and sonics one of the many viewscreens adorning the walls of the room. Adjusting the setting a couple of times, the Doctor finally manages to gain an image of what lies outside the Pentarth. Studying the image, the Doctor gasps as he determines that the Pentarth is on a direct course for a large yellow star, similar in look to Earth's own Sun, but twice the size.
----------------------------------------
At the same time on the command deck of the Pentarth, Leteth and Gilmesh are watching the Doctor's every move on the security monitors. They are both baffled and surprised as the Doctor moves over to the external wall and listens, but the surprise soon turns to fear as they observe the Doctor sonic the viewscreens and display the image of the approaching sun.
"Holy Fnarg, he's figured it out. You fool, Leteth, you should have realized that he was more intelligent than the rest of the cattle. You may have jeopardized our glorious mission," Gilmesh fumed.
"But, sir, there was no indication that they posed a significant threat, considering the dumb-witted excuse thought up by the female. And the other two with the large nose and large forehead and chin indicated they were from the lower classes."
"Well you were wrong. I want that man in here now. Open up bulkhead 4-C, grab him and bring him to me, before his friends realize what has happened," Gilmesh ordered.
----------------------------------------
Barely ten minutes later, the Doctor is handcuffed to a chair on the command deck of the Pentarth, surrounded on all sides by Gilmesh, Leteth and several security officers all bearing side-arms of various descriptions. While many would be intimidated, and even frightened, by their predicament, the Doctor sits impassively as if this was just another day at the office. Of course, for him, it was.
"So, you must be the commanding officer," the Doctor announces, indicating Gilmesh. "Very nice ship, I must say. Passengers are very quiet though, aren't they, and I don't like the view outside much. Don't like too much sun myself, I burn terribly."
"Okay, Doctor, we know that you have determined our present course and have set-out to intervene in our little operation."
"That's a real shame, you know that. I was hoping that it was a small navigational error and that you would be crying out for my help. But, no, you're on some sort of suicide mission aren't you, carrying a load of rather unwilling passengers I'd wager."
"This is not a suicide mission. This is our glorious mission to maintain racial purity among the Reflaine people. These 'unwilling passengers' as you describe them, are a genetic offshoot of our race and threaten our society with their telepathic abilities."
"A mission of 'racial purity' that involves flying directly into a star certainly sounds like a suicide mission to me, considering that you'll all be dead at the conclusion," the Doctor indicates to Leteth and the guards. "And you're all alright with this one are you, going down with Captain Ahab?"
Before Leteth and his men can speak, Gilmesh steps forward "They have all sworn allegiance to the cause of exterminating these cattle from our genome."
"Religious zealots, wonderful! But you know, I'm going to have to stop you."
"Interesting, and how do you intend to go about that, Doctor? You are our prisoner and your friends certainly don't seem capable of mounting any form of resistance," Gilmesh crows.
"Yes, I suppose you're right. At least I've got the best seat in the house when this ship flies into the sun. Any chance of a cup of tea while we wait?" The Doctor flashes Gilmesh his most winning smile.
----------------------------------------
Back in the passenger cabin, Amy and Rory are looking all over for any sign of the Doctor. They have obviously been searching for a while, and now look quite concerned at the Time Lord's absence.
"I just don't get it, where could he be?" Amy asks.
"Maybe, he's gone back to the TARDIS to get something."
"No, he wouldn't just leave us. And besides how is he going to get back out that way? There's only one door and that's guarded. No something has happened to him in here."
"But what?" Rory asks.
As Rory finishes his question, in silent answer one of the female passengers' eyes shoot open and she rises from her opulent chair, staring in Amy and Rory's direction. The female's movements obviously startle the two newlyweds as they both stumble back in surprise. Again, Rory's medical training kicks in and he moves over to the female's side.
"Are you alright? I'm a nurse. Rory. I can help you."
"Blimey, this is all a bit weird, isn't it?" The female speaks, performing a perfect imitation of the Doctor's speech patterns and inflections, which again startles Amy and Rory.
"Doctor!?!" Amy questions in surprise.
"Yes. Well, not quite." The female looks at herself in one of the viewscreens, studying her reflection. "Oh look, I'm a girl. Still, never mind, I haven't got long to explain."
"Explain what? What's going on? Have you turned into a woman?" Rory stammers.
"No, but that would be interesting. Maybe next time. Anyway, haven't got long, did I explain that?" The female glares at Amy and Rory, silencing any further questioning. "Okay, this ship is on a direct course for a star thanks to the crew being on some suicide mission of racial purity. I'm being held prisoner on the command deck and I need you two to gain control of the ship and free us all."
"Is that all? There's us two against a ship full of armed guards."
"There's not just you two. There are hundreds of passengers on various decks. Get them to help you, storm the command deck. Do anything, or we'll all be burnt cinders floating around in space within the hour."
Rory speaks up. "But how do we do that? You said that they weren't interested in us. How can we get their attention?"
"Don't worry about that. I've established a limited psychic connection with their 'group-mind' and have tried to explain the situation. But my control is weak, and I can only fully communicate with one mind at a time. It's up to you two, and I'm sorry, but you're our only hope. Good luck."
----------------------------------------
After the Doctor's consciousness left the female's mind, she remained upright and announced herself as being Nilva, offering to assist Amy and Rory in their cause. With Nilva's help, the two companions were able to wake the rest of the passengers in their reception area. Following some tense scenes in which Amy and Rory had to explain the whole situation, the majority of the passengers agreed to assist in liberating themselves.
Unfortunately, the newly-awakened passengers were a lot like new born calves, stumbling about and slowly opening their eyes to the well-lit cabin. Frustration mounted, but eventually, the passengers regained their legs and begun to enact the Doctor's "plan". With Amy and Nilva firing them all up with impassioned pleas and shouts for liberation, the passengers flooded out of the reception room, taking down the guards at the door and taking their weapons.
Within minutes, news of the uprising passengers reached Gilmesh on the command deck of the Pentarth. In a loud rage, he ordered Leteth and his deck guards below to assist in the fight. However, any hopes the Doctor had of escaping were dashed when Gilmesh levelled his hand gun directly at the Doctor's head.
"I said I'd find a way to stop you," the Doctor says in his most challenging tone. "A ship full of telepaths and two of the most resourceful people in the entire universe, and you thought you had me over a barrel. I always find a way."
Gilmesh has now been pushed over the edge, he moves his gun closer to the Doctor's head at point blank range and is about to fire, when a loud shout stops him in his tracks. "Shoot and you're dead."
Both Gilmesh and the Doctor both look over at the direction of the shout and see Amy and Rory both stood in the doorway holding guns. Despite being rescued, the Doctor looks quietly disgusted at his companions.
"Don't you dare. Not one shot," the Doctor demands of his companions.
As Amy and Rory slowly drop their guns, a look of shame forming on their faces, Gilmesh once again goes to shoot the Doctor, but is prevented by doing so when Rory punches him squarely in the jaw, knocking him out almost instantly.
"Good man, Rory. Now if you'll be so kind to let me out, so I can get out of here."
"But, where's the key?" Amy asks.
"Use the sonic, it's in my top breast pocket."
Amy searches the Doctor's pocket, pulling out a sugar mouse and a collection of alien coins, before finally finding the sonic screwdriver. Fiddling with the settings, she sonics the handcuffs and eventually they come off. In thanks, the Doctor hugs Amy and goes to hug Rory, before they both think better of it and shake hands instead, both slightly bashful.
"Right, time for a bit of a course correction." The Doctor moves over to the ship's instrumentation and fiddles with a few controls as Amy and Rory watch on. Suddenly, the Doctor kicks out at the control panel in anger.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid. They've sabotaged the nav-computer, we're locked on course."
"Isn't there anything we can do?" Amy pleads.
The Doctor considers for a moment, running his hands through his mop of hair as he does so. "Maybe. Maybe. If I can slave this ship to the TARDIS... yes, that just might work." Without another word, the Doctor dashes off out of the command deck, presumably in the direction of the TARDIS.
----------------------------------------
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor is quickly able to link the TARDIS controls into the Pentarth's nav-computer and is able to alter the ship's computer to take them out of the danger zone.
A few short hours later, the Doctor and his companions are stood outside the TARDIS, surrounded by Nilva and the passengers, now firmly in control of the Pentarth.
"We'd like to thank you all for helping us. You have given us a second chance of life and we hope to be able to do the same in rescuing others of our kind who are being exterminated."
"I know you will, and I wish you every success. But where do you go from here?" The Doctor asks.
"We cannot take up the fight by ourselves, for we are few in number. There are a number of telepaths working for the Mandrasta Archive, we will seek their assistance in contacting the Shadow Proclamation about the Reflaine's actions."
"Then all we can say is good luck. And thank you."
All smiles, the Doctor, Amy and Rory re-enter the TARDIS and seconds later the great engines start up once again, and the sound of the universe can be heard.
----------------------------------------
Now back in the TARDIS, the Doctor and his companions are stood around the console, absorbing their recent experiences about the Pentarth.
"Well there we are, back on course for the Orient Express. Time for a proper honeymoon."
"Thank God. A nice break at least." Amy says wearily.
"But, Doctor," Rory starts questioningly, "what drew the TARDIS off course in the first place?"
"Ah, well, glad you asked. During the phone conversation I was overwhelmed by a form of psychic energy, which I'd only experienced once before. I should have investigated back then, but I was distracted by a 'greater cause'. This time, I just had to see, and I'm glad we did."
"So you took the TARDIS off course?"
"Subconsciously, yes. But now there's a problem. You see, the psychic energy was the death cries of all the dying passengers of the Pentarth. Now we've saved them, there is no psychic energy for me to receive, so we don't go back and rescue them. Perfect, I've created a paradox."
"But we've saved all those people." Amy adds.
"Yes, at least for this iteration. Pity our poor selves who soldier on in the next iteration and aren't aware of the extermination of hundreds of lives."

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Matt Fitton – Q & A

Matt Fitton has written Living History featuring the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller (which if you haven't already read, you really should!), and has very kindly permitted me to ask him some questions.


 

Hi Matt. You've written for the Eighth Doctor and Lucie. How do you find the characters to write for, based almost solely on voice performances? Is there a difference in using characters whose physicality you can use to help define them?

I actually find those two pretty easy to write for as they've lived inside my head for years! Quite simply, it's made easier because they're excellent performances: the voices are very vivid, with vocal traits and turns of phrase - for example, you can put Lucie in any situation & just know how she would react. While the Eighth Doctor doesn't have such a defining physicality as say, the Fourth or Seventh, there's an elegance & deftness he has in the TVM that I try to capture.

From experience, would you say any particular Doctor is difficult to capture in prose? Are there any you would especially relish tackling? Are there any you'd have no desire to write for?

I know it's traditional to say Troughton, but I think quite a few writers - including one in this series! - have captured him very well. I think, for me, Hartnell would be a challenge - and for that reason, I'd really like to have a good go at him: particularly with Ian & Barbara to bounce off. I just need to find the right story. I'd write for every Doctor quite happily - there's something different to try with each one.

Is the companion dynamic important? Is there ever a need for more than one in your opinion, and why? Does having more companions made it more or less difficult to tell a good story?

Oh yes - other than the Doctor-villain relationship, the companion dynamic is fundamental to almost every story. More than one companion adds to the possible conflicts and relationships within a story: but really it depends on what story you want to tell. Ian, Barbara & Susan are a brilliant team, and really lend themselves to the epic early stories, where there are lots of strands. Equally, I love Ace & Hex in the audios as they each bring a different dynamic to their relationship with the Doctor, and between themselves.

Do you finder it easier or harder to write for established characters or your own creations? Why would you say this is?

In a way, it can be very similar: I feel like I know the established characters inside-out, but then I feel the same about the ones I create too. I like to base bits of them on real people at least to start with: it helps them come to life in my imagination as they find their place in the story. I suppose there are limits with the established characters, but if I really didn't think I could make a particular character work, I wouldn't use them!

What motivates you as a writer? Do you find it easy to just sit and write or does it require a bit of a push?

Coincidentally, Charlie Brooker just wrote a piece this week in the Guardian that sums up my feeling on this. Get a deadline, and it gives you all the push you need to see whether you can actually do it or not!

What are you most proud of when it comes to your writing? And do you prefer a particular format, e.g. prose over script? If so, what appeals about one more than another?

I love writing dialogue, and am proud if I can get funny bits in that really fit with the characters. Writing allows you the ultimate in l'esprit d'escalier: you've got all the time you need to come up with the perfect witty retorts. I suppose for this reason, I do prefer script format: for me , it just feels more immediate.

Do you plan greatly, or tend to see how a story will pan out once you've started it? Do you find best to simply start, or to plot everything in detail beforehand?

Often, I start with a 'what if' concept as the seed and see where it goes from there. I do skip around in the actual writing of a story - knowing I've got to get from A to C, via B, but leaving the details to fill in later - but usually have a good idea of the overall direction pretty early on. I think it's good to at least have the skeleton structure in place for the whole story before you do too much. However, once you start fleshing it out, the characters themselves can often provide unforeseen detours.

Some quick questions to finish:

Favourite Doctor? Why?

Fourth - I grew up with Tom, and he was the Doctor, as simple as that.
Though the Eighth has a very special place too, as McGann took the reins just as I rediscovered my love for all things Who and his EDAs and Big Finish audios made him my ongoing current Doctor into the noughties.

Favourite companion? Why?
This is very difficult: so I'll cheat & put Lucie Miller, Romana II, K9 and Ian Chesterton all equal first for the same reasons: wit, intelligence & resourcefulness!

Top Five Doctor Who stories? Why do you like them?
City of Death: 'Absolutely exquisite.' Tom & Lalla & Douglas Adams working in perfect unison. As timey-wimey as a Moffat story, with a great villain, great guest cast and great location. I can watch this again and again.
Kinda: 'You can't mend people!' After the certainty of Tom, this, for me, is where Peter Davison really nailed it. A more adult, cerebral and downright spooky Who. Years before Richard Curtis got the plaudits for his handling of Van Gogh's mental illness, we got Christopher Bailey's brilliant script coupled with Simon Rouse's excellent performance. And the Part One cliffhanger is possibly my all-time favourite.
Chimes of Midnight: 'Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without my plum pudding...' I admit it: I have a festive relisten every year. The Eighth Doctor & Charley relationship at its peak, some very clever and funny writing from Rob Shearman, with performances to match. (Though it's hard to single out just one Eighth Doctor audio: Neverland, Human Resources and Brave New Town all get honourable mentions as well.)
Human Nature: 'Smith and Joan.' I can have this one twice over! First, as one of the pinnacles of the Virgin New Adventures, and then again to showcase what a brilliant actor we had in the lead role with David Tennant. All courtesy of Paul Cornell's excellent writing.
The Eleventh Hour: 'Hello, I'm the Doctor. Basically... run.' Simply the best debut of any Doctor (bar An Unearthly Child!). I rewatched this recently with my 5yo, and he was riveted throughout. The future is safe in the hands of the Eleventh Doctor.

Favourite author/s? Favourite books?
Many and varied to say the least! Too many authors to list - Adams, Pratchett, Pullman, Austen & Orton, and have recently re-affirmed my appreciation of Roald Dahl, having read most of his works to my little boy - concise, witty and suitably grisly. New discoveries for me are Donna Tartt & Louise Welsh. All time favourite book is Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold, having been a bit of a magic geek in the past.
Who-related: Lance Parkin, Rob Shearman & Paul Cornell - and it's well worth seeking out the non-Who British Summertime, by Paul, and Rob's short stories.

What do you like about Doctor Who? What keeps you hooked?
It's the best sci-fi-fantasy-tragi-comedy-(pseudo)historical-(melo)dramatical-farcical-serio-family-kids programme there has ever been or ever will be. And it thrives on change, which means it will be around in some form or other much longer than any of us!

What is your top writing tip?
Just do it. Get stuff on paper, however bad you might think it is. Remember, if writing is rewriting - it's easier to rewrite once you've got something written down in the first place.


 

Matt Fitton, thank you very much.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Living History


Story 9, and it's Matt Fitton's rather brilliant Living History. Matt's agreed to an interview, which hopefully will be done and up on this here blog very soon.
Hope you enjoy it, and please be kind with votes and comments back on gallifreybase.
So, now, I present to you:


LIVING HISTORY
By Matt Fitton

 ‘OK, so there’s sand...’ Lucie Miller gave the Doctor a dubious look over the top of her designer sunglasses.


‘Sea, sangria and... anything else at all, not so much.’ She kicked at the golden dust with her pink flip-flops. The TARDIS appeared to have landed in the middle of a huge sandbowl.

Despite the two suns she could see, the temperature felt cool: it was odd having the two senses in conflict. The sky had a hazy quality and Lucie detected an ozoney whiff in the air. The Doctor was already striding towards the peak of the dune, his coat billowing behind him in the breeze.

‘A bit nippy too!’ Lucie called as she pulled her sarong tighter round her waist. Frankly the swimsuit now seemed a wholly optimistic choice of outfit. The sunhat wouldn’t last much longer either if the wind picked up.

At the top of the dune the Doctor turned and gave an enthusiastic wave.

‘Lucie Miller, I promised you a sightseeing trip. Come and see the sights!’

‘Er... You said ‘holiday’, actually.’ Slipping and sliding up the sandy slope, Lucie joined the Doctor at the top of the dune. She couldn’t help gasping at the sight below.

Beyond their empty basin, below the dunes, was an array of gleaming towers of silver and stone. The suns reflected off a mix of textures: sandstone, marble, and metal. A strange blend of ancient and modern, as new buildings had been slotted between the ruins of the old. Lucie took in vast colonnades stretching between buildings that looked like they could be temples or palaces. Along one side of the ‘city’ rose a massive structure carved from the rocks in the sand: like the mouths of railway tunnels set row upon row, one atop the other. Lucie counted eight levels of caves, with columns, steps and doorways leading into the rock.

‘The Ruins of Prevaya. The original inhabitants carved those tunnels in the rocks over there, and built up the city below over centuries. They were ruthless in battle, meticulous planners, and even had the Earth Empire worried for a while. So much so, that as soon as they were in danger of extending out of this solar system, they were attacked.’

‘What, by Earth?’ Lucie asked.

The Doctor had taken off his jacket and was now squatting down, fishing through the pockets. He found a white card and slipped it into his waistcoat pocket, then carried on rifling.

‘Yes, with the Dalek incursions, resources were pretty stretched...’ Now he had unearthed something that looked like a big silver yo-yo. He weighed it in his palm for a moment, then it too went into his waistcoat pocket. ‘So, they tended to stamp on any other potential threats as fast – and as hard - as they could. Without mercy.’

He took out his sonic screwdriver and waved it over the sand.

Lucie considered for a moment. ‘And they stamped on these Prevayans?’ she asked.

‘Yes, but...’ The Doctor checked the humming screwdriver and made an adjustment. Narrowing his eyes against the wind, he scanned the vista below.

‘After the first wave of attacks... Nothing,’ he continued. ‘The Prevayans failed to retaliate. Eventually the humans came down here, and found, well... this.’ He stood again, and waved his arms to indicate the view before them.

‘Only presumably without the hotels and...’ Lucie squinted to see the writing on the nearest shining structure of glass and metal. ‘The Living Museum.’ A strange shimmering column seemed to extend from its roof up into the hazy sky.

‘That’s right,’ the Doctor answered, slinging his coat over his shoulder. ‘The city was intact. But not a trace of the natives. The remnants of an entire race... vanished. Practically overnight.’

He started down the slope, backwards, still talking to Lucie.

‘This was all nearly two thousand years ago. Prevaya’s been mined, colonised and become a lucrative part of the human empire now. Did I mention the vast natural mineral wealth? And it’s a mecca for archaeologists, historians and xenologists. Hence the museum.’ He suddenly stopped, took out the white card he had found earlier and held it out to Lucie. ‘Which is currently hosting a cheese and wine event.’

Lucie took the card – it was an invitation to cocktails at the Living Museum’s Disappearance of the Prevayans exhibit. ‘But a museum though? It’s not really our sort of thing...’

The Doctor pointed to the strange column reaching up from the Living Museum. ‘There. A rip in the fabric of time that really shouldn’t exist.’

‘Oh, it’s a space-time thingy is it? Well then...’

‘Come on Lucie... An ancient mystery to be solved... a space-time ‘thingy’... and last but by no means least, nibbles and drinks! I’d say it’s very much ‘our sort of thing.’’

Lucie considered. ‘OK then. But if we’re gonna be clambering over ruins, I’ll have to nip back to the TARDIS to slip into something a bit more Lara Croft.’

The Doctor grinned. ‘Marvellous. I’ll see you in the Living Museum,’ he called as he bounded away through the sand.

***

Professor Patricia Mendoza watched through the Window of History as the mighty armies of the Prevayans retreated into their catacombs. She sipped her Martini.

Strange how used she had become to the absolutely extraordinary. The Window served as one wall of the Viewing Chamber, filling it from floor to ceiling, 10 metres wide and more than 5 metres high: though she knew it extended far beyond this room. How and why it had appeared remained a complete mystery, despite the best efforts of the assembled scientific community. All that Patricia knew was that the Window had materialised almost two years ago, and, once its properties had been investigated, Professor Beren Vengard, Director of the Prevayan archaeological district, had constructed his ‘Living Museum’ around it.

Were she to look through the actual windows on either side of the Window to History, Professor Mendoza would see the view of the ruined cavemouths, and the remains of the Imperial Palace as they now stood on the planet surface. However, through the Window to History, she saw the tunnel entrances as they had been almost two thousand years earlier, whole and occupied. The tall, angular Prevayans, black exoskeletons glinting silver where their comms and weapon implants had been affixed, marched among them with purposeful gait. For the past few weeks she had watched as they carried equipment, supplies, and an array of weaponry into the entrance to the catacombs. They were obviously preparing for a move, and soon, very soon, the Window would show them where. Or else prove to be a huge disappointment. Hence the free-flowing alcohol. Museum Director Vengard was nothing if not pragmatic.

‘Fascinating.’ A gentle voice beside her broke into her reverie. She looked at the man – yet another academic she guessed. All brocade and silk, with what looked like a green velvet coat slung over his shoulder.

Unlike the other academics she’d met, he broke into a broad smile as he took in the ID-holo attached to the lapel of her neat black suit.

‘Hello... Professor Mendoza. May I call you Patricia? I found your treatise on the development of Earth Colony multi-gender politics absolutely riveting.’

Before she could respond, he was shaking her hand vigorously.

‘I’m the Doctor. You know, strictly speaking, this museum shouldn’t exist at all.’

‘I am always pleased to meet a fan.’ Patricia spoke with an accent that betrayed her long-distant connections to the Iberian peninsula back on Earth. ‘But I do not think Professor Vengard would agree. He has put so much effort into it. You should have seen the Bombardment of the Prevayans soirĂ©e he held six months back.’

The man – the Doctor - had produced a slender silver instrument seemingly out of thin air, and was waving it across the surface of the Window, listening intently to the buzzes and beeps it was making. Absently, he plucked a vol-au-vent from the tray of a passing auto-waiter.

‘War as entertainment... how very 42nd Century. Now what have we here? Anti-matter traces...some sort of fuel dump from the particle signature... Artron energy traces... Quite a concoction. And of course preposterously unlikely that they should collide in the exact amounts to produce this particular effect. But then, that’s the universe all over isn’t it? Preposterous.’ He turned back to face the Professor, the smile now fading into an expression of concern.

‘I do hope you’re not too attached to your little fissure - er, Patricia...’ He popped the vol-au-vent into his mouth and turned back to the Window. As he did so, he took a circular silver object from his waistcoat pocket and pressed it onto the surface. It shimmered where it was touched, and when he removed his hand, the silver disk was stuck fast to the plane.

Patricia exhaled sharply at the presumptiousness of the man and stared at the object over the frame of her narrow spectacles.

Director Vengard sidled up to her. A short man in a silver-sheened suit, he spoke with a condescending tone.

‘Another new arrival, Patricia? One of yours?’

‘Most certainly not. Museum Director Vengard, this is Doctor..?’

The man turned back to face them both with what Patricia supposed he thought was a disarming grin.

‘That’s right, just Doctor. Congratulations, Director. You have a fabulous Museum. I’m here to close it down.’

***

Now that’s what I call archaeology, thought Lucie Miller as she watched two perfectly-formed buttocks clad in khaki shorts recede down the tunnel ahead of her.

Pietro was his name, and he had some sort of Mediterranean look going on, so when he’d met her outside the Living Museum and offered to take her on a tour of the tunnels, Lucie had been more than happy to accept. Apparently the Doctor was occupied with Pietro’s boss - some dusty-sounding anthropological expert - and so he’d suggested Lucie might like some hands-on exploration. She’d been expecting it all to be a bit more Time Team and a bit less Indiana Jones to be honest, so her tour of the Prevayan catacombs was turning out to be much more stimulating than she’d anticipated. Though there was still rather too much yomping through tunnels for her taste. Hang on, he was saying something about history again...

‘The Prevayans built miles of these catacombs, connecting the dwelling areas, and public forums you see on the surface. It wasn’t always as hospitable as it is now, particularly after the bombardments.’

‘That was the Earth forces right?’

‘Yes, not a particularly proud moment in our history. At the time, Earth was being stretched on all fronts by the Dalek advances, so when the threat came from Prevaya, it was deemed best to annihilate it at source. Less than six months later, all trace of the Prevayans had gone.’

They came to another sealed door. They were dotted along the catacombs: Pietro had explained that the archaeologists themselves had made these new additions. Competition among the exploratory expeditions was fierce, and the steel doors secured the interests of Mendoza’s group, along with some valuable artefacts. Pietro pressed his palm to a side-panel, and stepped through.

Lucie waited for him to go ahead a few paces before following. She got the best view that way.

***

Museum Director Vengard was not easily taken aback, but Mendoza was amused to see the effect this mysterious Doctor was having on him. The Window did attract lunatics, but this one seemed more determined than most.

‘So what you’re telling me is, I have to close my Museum. Expel all my guests, including the esteemed Prevayan Governor over there,’ Vengard gave a little wave to a distinguished-looking grey-haired gentleman in a white Nehru suit. ‘Kick them all out. Just when it seems we are about to discover the secrets of a history that have been hidden for millennia. No explanation. Just shut up shop. On your say-so.’

The Doctor nodded vigorously. ‘That’s just about it. So glad you understand.’ He paused. ‘To be honest, I thought it’d be much more difficult than this...’

‘Look, Doctor. I’m a plain-speaking man. If you forgive the archaeological allusion, I like to call a spade a spade. So, in words of one syllable: No.’

The Doctor leaned toward Patricia in a theatrical aside. ‘In my experience, people who insist on calling a spade a spade almost always display a distinct lack of imagination,’ he stage-whispered.

If Vengard had heard, he made no indication. Instead, he was examining the silver disc that the Doctor had affixed to the Window. He made a feeble attempt to prise it off. Brow furrowed, he turned to the Doctor. ‘And what, pray tell, is that?’

‘Positronic relay: my TARDIS can link to it and safely channel the temporal energy back somewhere less... disruptive. Avoid an anti-matter explosion. Which I always think is the best option.’

‘Doctor, my team of experts and I have been studying the Window for the last eighteen months. There is no way you can penetrate it. Believe me, we’ve tried. It’s almost as if the surface does not exist in our plane of reality.’

The Doctor arched an eyebrow. ‘You know, you’re almost half right. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but really, there’s nobody more qualified than me for this sort of thing.’

Vengard had clearly had enough of this particular conversation and turned away. ‘Another crackpot. Please take your device and go. I must attend to the Governor.’

The Doctor watched the Director move away. He glanced at Patricia.

‘Only to be expected, I suppose’ he said resignedly.

‘I just ask that you consider one thing, Director Vengard,’ he called after the retreating figure. Vengard turned to face him, and the Doctor continued.

‘Yes, the finest minds of your scientific community have irrefutably established that nothing can get out through the Window. But - did you ever consider the possibility that something might be able to get in?’

***

Through another sealed door, Lucie wondered how deep below ground they were. She’d noticed the other workers had got fewer and farther between in the last few tunnels. In fact she hadn’t seen another soul apart from Pietro for over ten minutes now.

At last, it seemed they had reached the end of the tunnel. Lucie looked again at the wall ahead. There was something odd about it: it seemed to shimmer. Almost as if it wasn’t quite there. Or as if she were looking at it through a... window.

She stepped forward to stand beside Pietro. He smiled at her and waved proudly toward shining surface.

‘And here, we have the cutting edge of our exploration. You see, the Window extends beneath the surface and we are now almost eighty metres directly below the Viewing Chamber. I came across this facet quite by chance. Incredible isn’t it.’

Lucie peered closely at the glinting window. Through it she could make out... another sheer rock face.

‘I hate to break it you Pietro, but Prevayan underground rocks from two thousand years ago look pretty much the same as, well, the Prevayan underground rocks behind us right now.’

Lucie heard the door seal closed behind her. She was about to turn, when she saw something coming through the rock face beyond the Window.

A claw. Followed by an arm, and the rest of an insectoid body. Two arms, two legs, black exoskeleton patched with shining metallic plates. An expressionless face, like a skull in negative, with metallic blue bulbous eyes, cocked to one side like a curious dog. The creature emerged from the rockface as if surfacing from a pool.

Then it stepped through the Window in precisely the same way.

Lucie jumped back in alarm. She recognised the silhouette from the signs outside the Living Museum.

‘Pietro... It’s a... a... Prevayan. A two thousand year-old extinct Prevayan.’

‘Welcome, Brood-Empress.’ A dry, rasping voice came from behind. Lucie span round to see another of the creatures standing next to Pietro. ‘All is prepared. Welcome to the future.’

***

Six thousand kilometres above the surface of Prevaya, a shining silver missile reached the top of its arc. If anyone had been close enough to observe, they would have seen blue lights chase one another round a central rim, faster and faster, until, with a soundless flash, the whole thing winked out of existence, transformed into a pulse of energy that rippled back toward the planet surface below.

***

In the Viewing Chamber, every artificial light went out at once. A few cries came from the assembled crowd, but as they immediately re-illuminated, they fell silent for a moment. The hubbub of conversation was just beginning again, when Patricia saw the Doctor nod toward Vengard and tap his own shirt lapel. Patricia looked at Vengard’s lapel: his holo-ID was blank. Hers was the same. So was every person’s in the room. She noticed a few guests looking quizzically at their communicators.

‘I think you’ll find that was a targeted electromagnetic pulse,’ the Doctor murmured. ‘They always make my follicles tingle. Every human communication device on this continent has been disabled.’

‘How do you know this?’ Patricia hissed. ‘Is it something to do with you?’

‘Just a guess,’ replied the Doctor. ‘I’d stand away from the doors. I’m making another guess that something rather unpleasant is about to happen.’

The crowd around the Window seemed agitated. Vengard was talking loudly to the Governor.

‘They’ve never shown any interest in the Window. They don’t even know it’s there.’

All the Prevayans had gone from view: apart from one squadron of ten which was marching towards the Window carrying a long metal plate. From this angle they looked to be heading straight underneath the Viewing Room.

‘They do appear to be walking towards us, but the ground level of this area two thousand years ago was around twenty metres lower than it is now,’ Vengard continued in his nasal drone.

As if on cue, a floating metal platform bearing the ten Prevayans hovered into view at the Window, level with the observers.

Ten large insectoid warriors stepped out from the planet’s history and into the Viewing Chamber.

The group by the Window gasped, then turned to run. The main doors at the back of the room burst open to reveal another ten warriors, this time coming from the Museum foyer.

In the midst of the panic, Mendoza felt a hand on her shoulder, and the Doctor spoke in a low tone by her ear.

‘So Patricia: you finally have the answer to the mystery of what happened to the ancient Prevayans. It seems they crashed your cocktail party.’

***

Lucie considered her position. Being held prisoner by bug-eyed monsters was not exactly a new experience. And at least she had some pretty company. Treacherous, but pretty.

‘Why are you doing this? Helping them?’ she whispered to Pietro who was sitting cross-legged on the cavern floor beside her.

More Prevayans had been emerging through the Window, carrying weapons and supplies. She realised that what she had assumed was Pietro’s own scientific set-up – the banks of equipment and screens that lined this final secured chamber – was a actually a base of operations for the invaders.

The insectoid commander had left some time ago, but the newly-arrived Brood-Empress with her flanking guards remained to watch the column of troops arrive.

‘I have no choice,’ Pietro replied. ‘I came across the facet here, three months ago, as I said. At that stage they were just starting to emerge. I was alone. They have evidently been aware of the Window for some time, and created a holographic rock-wall on the other side to hide their preparations. They were communicating with viewscreens when I first found them.’

‘Brood-Leader Kellak is a remarkable officer.’ The Brood-Empress had noticed their conversation and seemed eager to enlighten them. ‘He saw the potential immediately. The first soldiers who went through were evidently unable to return, so he devised a visual communication system. In the space of a few days, he had drawn up plans for our exodus. An EMP device launched at the moment of attack would disable human communications. We can storm the city and reclaim our world.’

‘But that still doesn’t explain why, Pietro? Why are you helping them?’ Lucie frowned.

‘Ha,’ the Brood-Empress’s mandibles chattered. ‘The construct was easily re-programmed. It is a mere toy to us. But a useful one.’

Lucie turned slowly back to look at Pietro. The man sat watching her with soulful eyes, head bowed. She finally managed to string a few words together. ‘Construct..? You mean, you’re... you’re a...’

‘‘Simulbot’ is the official brand.’ Pietro replied in his faintly accented tones. ‘An android. I understand there was a real Pietro once. I have some of his experiences. Professor Patricia Mendoza’s personal assistant. Unfortunately, he died. A rockfall I believe. Ten years ago. The Professor had to leave him.’

‘So she just... built another one?’

The Brood-Empress was observing the prisoners keenly. It was so rare she got to see the enemy in the flesh.

‘A simple machine to decode and insert our own command patterns,’ she chittered. ‘Without interfering with its regular duties. The spy who is not aware he is spying is the perfect agent. It has been our eyes and ears on the surface.’

‘I observed your arrival in your transport and the Brood-Leader had me bring you here. I merely follow the commands, then forget them.’

Lucie watched as more and more Prevayans marched past. She could here the sounds of muffled weapons and human screams beyond the security doors. Lucie remembered all the workers she’d passed in the tunnels.

‘It’ll be OK, the Doctor will know what to do,’ she whispered, more to herself than anyone else as she hugged her knees tight to her chest.

***

Brood-Leader Kellak surveyed the surrounded humans. It was impossible to tell from his face what emotion, if any, he was feeling. Suddenly his harsh voice barked a question. ‘Who is the human in authority here?’

The Governor made to step forward, but Vengard put a restraining hand on his arm and turned toward the Doctor, with a pointed glare. On his way to the front of the group, the Doctor met his confrontational stare. In a low voice he said, ‘Vengard, believe me, this is not my fault. It’s nobody’s fault: we just have to deal with the situation as best we can.’

Then he turned to the Prevayan.

‘Brood-Commander? Leader? I was never any good at remembering ranks... I believe I am the one you need to speak with.’

The Prevayan raised its arm and clicked its mandibles. ‘Restrain this one.’ With a speed that belied their size, two Prevayan guards flanked the Doctor and took an arm each. The Brood-Leader flicked its claw down and with gasp of pain, the Doctor was forced to his knees.

‘I know what you are. An interloper. I will speak to you, alien. But later.’

Brood-Leader Kellak surveyed the humans once more. ‘I repeat. Who is the human in authority? I will not ask again.’ With another gesture and clicking from its Leader, a Prevayan guard grabbed the nearest of the party-goers: a tall, blonde woman in an extravagant sapphire gown. The front was stained with red wine, spilt in the earlier commotion.

Kellak raised his arm again and swivelled his claw with more chirruping from his jaws. The guard immediately raised its arm by the woman’s head. The two black exoskeletal bones of its forearm suddenly lifted and separated, and a thin metallic tube emerged. Before anyone could react, there was a hiss and a click, and the woman fell dead to the floor, eyes still wide in fear. The weapon retracted, and the guard stepped back into formation.

‘There was no need for that.’ The Doctor’s angry tone cut through the silence.

‘Stop!’ It was the Governor, stepping forward to confront the Brood-Leader. But before he could move, Vengard pulled him back and stepped out from the group himself.

‘I am Governor here. These people are under my protection.’ Vengard’s voice trembled slightly as he continued his bluff. ‘I rule Prevaya, and whatever you are, however you got here, you will answer for these crimes.’ The sheen of the Director’s silver-grey suit looked incongruous next to the harsh black bones of the insectoid warrior.

‘Incorrect,’ the creature rasped. ‘I am Brood-Leader Kellak of the First Prevayan Regiment. The human crimes committed here are yet to be answered in full.’ Its bony claw shot out and gripped Vengard by the throat. ‘But I wish to start with you. The highest human authority.’ This time, Kellak’s own forearm opened as another sinister tube emerged. Again, a muted click and a hiss, and the Director’s body jerked, suspended in the Prevayan’s grip.

Kellak passed the lifeless body to a minion, who slung it unceremoniously over its shoulder.

‘Take it to the Brood-Empress,’ rasped Kellak.

‘Enough!’ The Doctor was back on his feet, and though still restrained by two guards, looked dangerously close to breaking free.

Kellak turned back to the Doctor. ‘Now, I am ready to speak with you, alien.’

The Doctor fixed the Prevayan with a steely glare. When he spoke, his voice was low and controlled.

‘What can you possibly hope to achieve? How many of you are there? Four, maybe five hundred? Against all of humanity? You know there are billions upon billions of them out there. Most are just getting on with their lives, building their worlds, like those two people you just murdered.

‘But believe me, when they are provoked, you do not want to make an enemy of humanity. Oh I’ve faced monsters in my time: Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Rutans. All masters of war in their own way. You know, some of my best friends are human - but nothing scares me as much as the human race’s capacity for cruelty.’

‘You are correct.’ Kellak strode over to where the Doctor was being held, close to the Window. ‘We are few.’ The Prevayan waved a claw at the Window’s empty panorama. ‘But this was our world. And we will have our revenge. Even now, my troops are securing the surrounding area. With all their systems dead, the human technology is there for the taking.’

‘And then?’ the Doctor went on. ‘It’s only a matter of time before they wipe you out. For good this time. Space Security have weapons that can destroy this world without coming within a hundred light years of it.’

‘So be it.’ Kellak was unmoved. ‘But we will have made our stand. With honour.’ The warrior paused. He was still looking at the Window, and cocked his head to one side as he noticed the Doctor’s silver gadget attached to the surface. Kellak raised his weapon arm: the black bones parted, and the silver gun emerged again. This time a louder pulse fired and the silver disk emitted a shower of sparks. He turned back to the Doctor. ‘Whatever that device’s intended use, you are too late.’

The Doctor was looking at the smoking remains of his equipment in dismay. ‘I was up all night thermo-grafting those circuits,’ he murmured. ‘Now listen Brood-Leader, there is no need for anyone else to die. Human or Prevayan. I can take you and your people to a place of safety: a suitable world, far from human influence. You can regroup and rebuild. I have a craft...’

‘Ah yes,’ Kellak interrupted. He signalled to his guards at the door way and chirruped harshly. Through the wreckage of the Viewing Chamber doors came another group of Prevayans. This time they were carrying something very large, very heavy, and very blue. ‘Your craft. Its arrival was observed. A transmat of some sort. I have some ideas for its use.’

Behind the group carrying the TARDIS, came another Prevayan, shorter than the others in the room, but commanding an even greater respect than the Brood-Leader. It had a fuller abdomen, and a bulky tail section trailing behind that the others lacked. Kellak saluted and his troops followed suit. ‘Hail, Brood-Empress!’

‘Kellak, you have done well.’ The new arrival walked to the TARDIS, now standing upright on the floor of the chamber. ‘With this transport, we can strike at the heart of the Earth Federation. I would have my Brood-Leader seek an audience with the... Chen dynasty?’ She looked back over her shoulder with the question.

From behind her, stepped a man, tall and dark, in khaki shirt and shorts. ‘That is correct, Brood-Empress. Federation power has been consolidated under the leadership of Emperor Chen and his line.’

The Doctor saw Patricia gasp and run forward calling ‘Pietro!’ She halted abruptly as the closest two Prevayans levelled their weapon-arms threateningly.

‘I see,’ said the Doctor. ‘Well if you think you can turn me into some sort of assassins’ taxi service, you’re even more deluded than I thought.’

Then he saw a familiar figure being pushed forward through the rubble. Kellak waved a claw.

’I understand this is your companion. You will open the craft. Now.’

‘Well, if you put it that way.’ The Doctor flashed a grin at Lucie, and in an instant several things happened. In one smooth movement, the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver appeared in his hand and he brandished it toward the smoking remains of the device attached to the Window. The silver wand screeched and before the Prevayans had time to react, they were suddenly frozen mid-step. The device on the Window sparked and fizzed, and the surrounding surface area glowed with a fluorescent white light. The Prevayans flickered, caught in a split-second of time. Like some bizarre exhibit in the Museum.

‘Lucie! Pietro! Here now!’ The Doctor beckoned the newcomers over. ‘My relay isn’t quite dead, I’ve managed to put a temporal lock on everything that came through the Window, but we have precisely two minutes before it burns itself out. There’s something very important I need to do.’

‘Hang on, there’s something I need to do first.’ Lucie was striding towards the Doctor with a furious look on her face. She stopped in front of him, swung her arm back and landed an almighty slap across his face.

‘That’s for not telling me what the hell’s going on here. One minute we’re on a sight-seeing trip; the next, there’s a full-scale war breaking out. You knew what was gonna happen, didn’t you?’

The Doctor was rubbing his cheek ruefully. ‘Lucie, I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t know for sure, but I suspected that the Window was dangerous. I was just going to shut it down... But you’re right, I should have told you.’

The Doctor raised his arms as Lucie stepped closer – but this time it was to give him a hug.

‘You can trust me you know. I can help,’ she said.

‘I know, and I’m going to need your help now. And yours, Patricia, Pietro.’

Patricia had moved to Pietro’s side, and placed a reassuring arm on his.

‘I... apologise... Patricia. There was nothing... nothing I could do.’ The sadness in the android’s expression seemed genuine enough to her, but was it just the memory of the real Pietro’s eyes which brought the tears to her own?

The Doctor was already at their side. Nervously glancing at the frozen Prevayans, he raised his screwdriver to Pietros’ shoulder.

‘I’m sorry to have to ask this but... Your brain, it has a trans-neural positronic relay doesn’t it? You’re one of the Series 8000 Simulbots?’

Pietro nodded. The Doctor pressed the screwdriver and it gave a low buzz. ‘Can you lock into this frequency? You should be able to open communications with my Ship. I’m afraid that what I’m going to ask will be-’

‘It is... OK, Doctor,’ Pietro interrupted. ‘The TARDIS has already told me. I can do it.’

Patricia was looking worriedly between the two of them. But before she could ask her questions, the Doctor went on.

‘In about twenty seconds we will be once again surrounded by some very annoyed Prevayan warriors who will probably want to know exactly what I’m doing. I’ll take Kellak and leave, but at the same time, I’ll be opening up the conduit to the vortex to seal the fissure. Unfortunately as this is going to be something of a lash-up: there’ll be feedback, but I’ll do my best to stabilise it.’

‘Will it not just affect the Prevayans – like your relay over there?’ Patricia indicated the sparking silver disk on the Window.

‘Unfortunately not: we’ll be channelling a flood of raw anti-matter mixed in with the temporal stream. Which means there’ll probably be an explosion. Quite a big one. Which is why I need you, Lucie Miller, to get everyone out.’

Patricia had almost forgotten the bedraggled party-goers, cowering in the corner of the chamber. Only the Governor was watching them keenly. She looked at the blonde girl in short shorts and inappropriate earrings. ‘Doctor, are you sure we can rely on her? She seems a little unstable...’

Lucie barely contained her fury. ‘Unstable? Remind me, which one of us built a robot with their dead boyfriend’s face?’

The Doctor stepped in between them. ‘Now, now, ladies. Lucie, Patricia is a well-respected academic based at this facility, so she’ll know the best route to safety.

‘Patricia, Lucie is my best friend. I’d trust her with my life. And frequently do.’ The Doctor smiled at them both in turn, then glanced at his screwdriver. ‘Eight... So, positions everyone! Six...’

Lucie and Pietro raced back toward their guards. Patricia joined the terrified group of humans. The Doctor stepped back to the Window, sonic held aloft.

‘Four... Three...’

The silver disc on the window was sparking madly now, and gave one last burst before falling free from the shining surface and shattering on the floor. The iridescence on the Window faded.

‘Two... One. And you’re back in the room.’

Kellak stepped forward in fury. ‘Do not move, alien. What is that device?’

The Doctor held up both hands in surrender. ‘Just a key. You’re right, you’ve got me. Keep my friend safe and I will take you wherever you like.’

Kellak saluted the Imperial presence, and the Empress acknowledged with a regal wave.

The Doctor opened the TARDIS door, and led Kellak inside.

The Prevayan tapped a silver disk on its ribcage. ‘I am in contact with the Empress. If there is any treachery, your associate dies next.’

Once inside, the Doctor bounded to the console, all gleaming brass and polished wood, set up on its central dais. Kellak seemed unfazed by the TARDIS interior.

‘An inter-dimensional transport. This will suit my purpose well,’ he rasped.

‘Oh you don’t know the half of it,’ the Doctor said as he started flicking controls. He checked the scanner: the channel was open, he just needed the relay to make contact. Pietro.

He looked down at the approaching Prevayan. ‘You’ll probably want to hold onto something,’ he said, and pulled the dematerialisation lever.

***

As the sound of the TARDIS engines filled the Viewing Chamber and the box disappeared from sight, Lucie and Pietro joined the other prisoners in the corner of the room.

Patricia was by Lucie’s side in an instant. She nodded over her shoulder to a small doorway from which, less than an hour ago, a constant stream of wine and food had been delivered. A single Prevayan stood guarding it. ‘Service door, leads to the kitchens. Once past there, we can seal the fire bulkheads: that should give some protection. ’

The Empress saw their furtive conversation and regarded the human prisoners closely. She moved toward the group menacingly.

‘I have never seen the enemy so close. You do not appear to be a threat at all. Your bodies are so... soft.’

She reached out a claw and gripped Patricia’s neck, forcing her chin upwards.

‘I hear that your blood is red, human.’ The Empress’ other claw hovered inches from the Professor’s glasses and her mandibles clicked. ‘How shall I make you bleed?’

Lucie clenched her fists and was about to say something, but Pietro moved quickly to Patricia’s side and took her hand. ‘The average human body contains 5 litres of blood. Oxygenated haemoglobin gives it the colour. Unlike the Prevayan metabolism, which is particularly suited to this desert world.’ Pietro indicated the Window beside the Empress and went on, ‘Only you could have created the wonders here.’

The Empress gazed through the Window at the world she had left. ‘It looks so close I could touch it. Is it really two thousand cycles since I last crossed my Palace threshold?’ Losing interest in Patricia, she released her grip, and the Professor bent, panting, still holding onto Pietro’s hand.

‘Precisely 1821 years, Empress,’ replied the android. ‘If I may, I can show you the Imperial palace as it stands now’

‘Ha. Machine-man. You are so willing to help. Yes. Show me.’ Patricia felt Pietro squeeze her hand, then release it as he walked across to the Window to join the Empress. She looked at his face, but he had already turned to the Prevayan.

‘If your Imperial Majesty would step to one side, you can see the ruins of the Palace in its current state through the windows to the right.’

Pietro had positioned himself by the Window to History, behind the Empress. As she turned to look at the view, he stepped over her tail and suddenly reached out both arms to grab either side of the Brood-Empress’s skull. Pietro twisted and there was a chittering scream and a sickening crack, and the great insect fell where she stood. The guards reacted, but too late. By the time they had drawn their weapons, Pietro was standing with both hands pressed to the Window, and they were fizzing with a white energy.

The guards raised their gun-arms, bones parted- then they were forced back through the moment again. They raised their weapons, bones parted- raised their weapons, bones parted- raised their weapons...

‘Everyone, run!’ Lucie yelled and pushed the service door open. The traumatised guests didn’t need telling twice. Led by the Governor, they scuttled through the exit, grateful to be leaving the scene of the atrocities they had witnessed. Lucie saw that Professor Mendoza was the only one who didn’t move. Patricia stood rooted to the spot, eyes fixed on Pietro.

‘Come on,’ Lucie grabbed Mendoza’s arm. ‘We’ve got to get out of here. There’s nothing else we can do.’

She saw tears behind the Professor’s glasses, her thinly set lips trembling. ‘I... can’t... leave him...’

Lucie looked the Professor in the eye, gripping her shoulders. ‘You already did. Ten years ago. You had to. This... thing might have looked like him, walked like him, talked like him - but it was never Pietro. And you don’t need a thing to keep him with you. You just need his memory. Let it go, Patricia. Please.’

The last Lucie saw of Pietro, he was standing, legs astride the fallen Empress, leaning with hands pressed to the Window. Surrounding him, but moving in stop-motion, the Imperial guard were edging closer, closer. Gradually, Patricia edged through the service door, led by Lucie.

Like oil on water, the Window’s surface was a swirl of colour. Then, spreading out from Pietro’s hands, a dazzling, brilliant white diffused across the Window, and Lucie could look no more. She slammed the door closed and took Mendoza’s hand again.

‘Run!’

***

‘What are you doing alien? My communicator cannot reach the Empress. Is this treachery?’ Kellak was already levelling his weapon arm at the Doctor as he frantically worked at the TARDIS console, pulling levers, pressing buttons, and checking readouts.

‘This is me trying to save all your lives, Kellak, Something I usually do more easily without a gun to my head. The temporal feedback is threatening everything around the fissure, I just need to filter it through the vortex, but the anti-matter flow is too strong...’

The Doctor reeled, hands clasped to his head.

It was like a million voices screaming in pain straight into his ears. ‘Whatever it is you’re trying to do,’ he gasped. ‘It’s not helping.’

The sensation was almost physically overwhelming. He managed to reach the TARDIS telepathic controls, his fingers dancing over keys and levers as he tried to deflect the overwhelming wave of psychic energy. At last, the pressure eased and the voices were gone as suddenly as they had arrived.

‘This technology is beyond even my understanding,’ Kellak rasped. ‘No matter. If I do not return, all humans will be executed. I will deal with you myself.’

‘It’s only a matter of time before the temporal waveform catches up with you in here. I would have taken your people somewhere safe. For them. For humanity. Even after you killed those people in cold blood. I can’t excuse it, but I can understand. You could have lived out the rest of your days in peace.’

‘We are Prevayan. What use have we for peace?’

‘You know, I was afraid you might say that.’ The Doctor suddenly stopped his frantic activity. He flicked one final switch, then stepped back from the console and folded his arms, his face becoming a mask of contempt. ‘I’m sorry Brood-Leader Kellak, but you’re history.’

The Doctor watched impassively as the Prevayan reached out its weapon-arm, then froze mid-motion. Kellak started to shake, then chittered, then screamed as his bones, flesh and circuits crumbled suddenly to dust. In seconds, the last Brood-Leader of the Prevayans was nothing more than a pile of black ashes on the TARDIS floor.

***

Outside the ruins of the catacombs, Patricia surveyed the wreckage of the Living Museum. The explosion had taken out the whole of the Viewing Chamber level, so now half the building was missing. And of the Window itself - the shimmering column she was so used to seeing reach up through the sky - there was no sign.

She thought of Vengard, the pompous little man and his futile act of bravery. Then all the others who had lost their lives: the archaeologists in the tunnels, the people in the city. Here and there were dotted piles of black dust and glinting silver where Prevayans had crumbled where they stood. The Doctor joined her.

‘Maybe it is for the best that the Director did not see this,’ she said.

‘Yes, poor Vengard. I misjudged him. He did love this world in his own way. And the Prevayans are gone, again. The feedback from the fissure meant that their past caught up with them. Quite literally. Aged two thousand years in seconds: another civilisation lost to history. All in all, not a great day.’

‘There was nothing else you could have done, Doctor. There was no reasoning with them.’

‘They were looking for revenge, lashing out like a wounded animal. Back then, the humans were ruthless. That’s all they knew of you-’ He stopped himself suddenly, then looked into Patricia’s eyes. ‘I’m sorry. You did well. You and Pietro. Even though he wasn’t human, he had all your best qualities.’

The Doctor took Patricia’s hand in both of his. He held her gaze, and she managed to smile at him. ‘He... honoured his memory.’

‘Thank you, Patricia. Don’t be alone. I try to avoid it.’ The Doctor glanced over to the TARDIS where Lucie was waiting, and let go of the Professor’s hand.

‘All the things you humans have done, all the worst that you are capable of... Sometimes, I need reminding of the best of humanity.’

‘And that’s why she’s with you, isn’t it?’ asked Patricia, but the Doctor was already gone.