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:

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.



‘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.

No comments:

Post a Comment