Saturday, 27 November 2010

Malleus Maleficarum

A little later in the day than usual, but it's finally here! Rachel Morgan has tackled the Third Doctor this week, and there are one or two surprises...
Malleus Maleficarum

    Words have power, they can control reality itself, if you know how. The right word in the right place at the right time can change the world. Imagine if Brutus was three hours late to that meeting and the others had given into their fear, would Caesar have survived instead of being assassinated? Maybe. What if one tired old woman had acquiesced to the strange demands of a bigot and moved to the back of the bus, would a large segment of a society still be brutally oppressed simply because of the melatonin levels in their skin cells? Possibly. Words have power, they have meaning, and they are a part of our very culture. They define us in ways we can barely comprehend sometimes, they can free and imprison with equal ease.

    Tomás de Torquemada was angry and anger was a pox upon the soul. Only the blood of that accursed witch Sabrine would cleanse himself and the land of Italy and by extension the world of her foul evil. She taunted him everywhere he went, always killing off his best guards and leaving him vile reminders of his failure to capture her and cleanse her soul of her disgusting ungodly ways. "Muerte de la vil bruja Sabrine!" Death to the vile witch indeed.

    "Italy." The Doctor, travelling meddler and wine taster, announced proudly, like he'd just had 8 draws come up in the football pools. "You'll love Italy, Sarah Jane." His careworn face rearranged itself into a wide smile. "Fine wine, good food, excellent table conversation. As I said to Alexander the Great, you can't visit Italy without trying the food."
    "I never know when you're being serious." Sarah Jane Smith, reporter, replied. "You drop more names than a back bench MP filling in at a royal gala event because his boss got plastered in the jaguar before he got there. Of course what we really need is a woman prime minister, she'd soon sort you lot out."
    The Doctor smiled wistfully. "Be careful what you wish for!" He gave the controls a quick once over, air, gravity and radiation levels were all in the clear. Then with the flick of a switch he opened the doors. "After you m'dear."
    "No." Sarah smiled. "After you." If there were Daleks or Ice Warriors out there she wanted the Doctor to use as a shield before she came up with a great plan to defeat them, or offer them an exclusive interview if things went that way instead.

    Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, so they say. They're wrong of course, Chocolate Oyster Surprise is, but it's still a good saying all the same. Power is a catch-all term for a lot of things. Wealth, the ability to buy what you want, is one form of power. Influence, the ability to get someone to do what you want them to do, is another sort of power. Position, gaining a job or title that has inherent properties to give the bearer more gravitas than they otherwise would have, is a third form of power. Then there's physical power, the path of violence, self destructive in the end as the attacker inevitably becomes the attackee. The mere threat of violence as a form of control is used by the bully, someone with no real skill or ability except the means to intimidate others into doing things they themselves are unable to do.

    Sarah Jane felt sad as she moved along the streets. What she really wanted was to be back on Peladon, in the arms of Thalia. They both knew it couldn't last; they were women of two very different worlds, neither of which were very tolerant of homosexuality. In many ways Peladon was as backwards as the city she was in now, and yet they had made alien contact a dozen times over and shown remarkable maturity about it all. She thought of her own times, the people there were much less tolerant; half the world would welcome alien visitors with open arms and the other half with loaded guns.
    The Doctor was an alien, he was strange and magical and wonderful and yet for all of that there was something desperately sad about him. She knew he'd recently lost a close friend, Jo, as she'd gone off to get married and start a life in Brazil with him. That sort of thing was not for her, and she wasn't the settling down kind and if she ever was then it wouldn't be with a man that was for certain. Unless it was some sort of sham marriage to a gay man so they could both present as a married couple in public and in private they could be with their preferred partners.
    She thought back to her brief relationship with Claire. Claire had been three years older, twenty years more cynical and had actually burned her bra in public, much to the astonishment of her fellow radical feminists who were all talk and no action. The problem with Claire was and is that Claire only loves Claire. Sarah Jane felt that if she could get a mirror and a tape recording of her own voice then she'd have her perfect woman.

    Jacques Duvall was not remotely French; in fact he wasn't even human but a Frenchman in an Italian city is just foreign enough to be excused the sorts of social faux pas that a native would never make. Like all agents of the Eternals he'd had his whole physical appearance changed so that he looked like one of the local inhabitants of the world he'd been assigned to. Last month he was something more akin to a centipede and the month before that he was pretty much a splodge of goo in a lake of more goo. His ongoing mission was to track down the last remaining Carrionite terrorist and deliver her to his masters for a reward and a respite from being assigned another mission for a cycle of rest and relaxation on a pleasure planet: resident or visitor didn't matter as long as he got some time off to do his own thing which was basically drinking a great deal, playing cards and most likely waking up the next day with a horrific hangover. He was delighted that he'd been able to do this on work time on this particular planet. If it wasn't for the stupidity of the natives he might almost like it.
    Jillian Duvall was currently the wife of her best friend and business partner. Being an uber-macho alpha male personality, the irony of being female on this planet was not lost on her. The Eternals installed the typical background information of the human species in their heads and she'd honed her figure into a solid mass of she-muscle and sinew so that she was far stronger and more powerful now than she was the last time she was a biped humanoid species. She could cope with the weird biology, strange clothing fashions and even the footwear but the next man to goose her would get his arm ripped off slowly and painfully.


    The streets were bright and open and they entered a wide plaza that was full of merchants selling everything from food to clothes to all sorts of jewellery and there was even a stall that sells manure. Sarah Jane wrinkled her nose and moved to the other side of the Doctor. "Let's go somewhere upwind of this lot."
    "You can tell a lot about a civilization by the way the use their manure." The Doctor began a long lecture. "Most use it to fertilize their crops or in building non-permanent structures. In your time they simply pump it out into the sea and hope the consequences of such ecological terrorism don't happen in their life times. I'd tell them that it will but they wouldn't listen to me. There's nothing so firmly closed as the human mind in denial."
    For a brief second Sarah Jane wondered if the Doctor suspected that he knew she was gay. She'd been careful to keep things like that hidden behind false names and the like. Her first girlfriend Christine had been referred to as her boyfriend Chris to all the girls in the office. She could talk freely about things then, it was a simple code and one she personally hated but people were bigoted about trivial things like sexual orientation. Allowing themselves great privileges and powers to those in a majority like themselves and harshly and often savagely denying the same things to those a little different simply because they didn't want them to have them out of arrogance, ignorance and spite. One day a marriage between two women would have equal value to that of a woman and a man, she'd seen the future, it happened and she dearly wished she could stay there and find a woman to marry but travelling with the Doctor was even more exciting and it would scoop her a ton of journalistic awards when she published her articles.

    Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger knew they weren't the only team of bounty hunters on this dull little world, but they were the best. They used the native species to do their work for them. All it took was a little time to learn the local language and then they could produce their propaganda as and when required. In time the locals would think of looking for Carrionites as their own idea, so what if the more stupid of the species got carried away and the more intelligent used the opportunity to get rid of their rivals. The actions of lesser beings were hardly their concern.

    The students were weak, inferior beings. The gift of creation was wasted upon them with their dull minds and vacant eyes. They were barely above the beasts in the fields in her opinion. Sabrine wanted the company of an equal, a woman with a truly gifted intellect to match her own. She was rapidly coming to the conclusion that her time of this planet was wasted in her search to find an apprentice, she'd all but given up hope on finding one woman who could open her mind to the Carrionite way.
    A true mistress of the Carrionite teachings had to have four essential qualities: A thirst for power, a need to submit to authority or exert it as requires, a certain creativity regarding retribution and most importantly the necessary mindset to know the natural superiority of the female of every species over their inferior males, something even the Daleks knew to be true as there had never been a male Dalek bred since Davros' earliest experiments.
    Obedience was necessary because without complete submission to the will of her teacher the acolyte could make a mistake and her training would lead to an inferior end product. Every trainee must put aside her personal quest for power when she was but a pupil but never forget it completely or she would never be a truly successful wielder of the magic. It wasn't enough merely to defeat an enemy, anyone could do that; what set a student and later a mother apart was her creativity in selecting the perfect spell to vanquish her foe to elicit a certain amount of irony and pleasure from the act. As the magic was borne from life, so the potential to create life was key in the shaping and honing of a true mother; males were not allowed access to any of the craft secrets as they would merely destabilise the complex magical fields that a female worked with and shaped to her needs.

    Jacques and Jillian approached the tall white haired man. He was obviously an alien; they could tell from his eyes and the cursory biometric scan of his system revealed little in common with the natives of his planet. "Are you here for the bounty too? We've never seen a hunter like you before."
    "Certainly not one who carries any weaponry." Jillian ran her hands over the man's body; it was muscular but not bulky. Strong and powerful but also agile and spry. He was a tracker, a stalker, a predator of guile and cunning. He was a wolf while they were more like mighty bears. "What's this?" She took out a small metal tube. "It's not very big at all is it?"
    "Madam." The Doctor smiled. "It's not what you have it's entirely how you use it." The Doctor held out his hand. "That is a sonic screwdriver, a handy tool. I have no use for weapons."
    "You're a cocky one." Jacques smiled. "I think I like you, no one lives as long as you have without being good at what he does."
    "My dear sir no one I've met has lived as long as I have," the Doctor said sharply. "I'm over two thousand years old."
    "Bullshit," Jillian replied. "You got your own spectrox mine?"
    "A what mine?" The Doctor asked. "Never mind, I'm here with a friend doing a little sight seeing. If you would be so good to allow me on my way?"
    "Of course," Jacques replied with a mock bow. "Come along Jillian, let us leave the man to enjoy his, what was it? Sight seeing? Yes. Do enjoy."
    "Complete amateur," Jillian scoffed.
    "He mewls like a prattling buffoon, but his eyes are sharper and colder than the meanest son of a nebula who gave us this job. He's up to something alright but unless he gets in our way I really don't want to cross paths with him. Something about him says we'll come off worst and I don't want that blemish on our records, you know they don't forgive mistakes."


    Sarah Jane saw her as a coweled figure, all shadowy and vague. Yet she could sense the power around her. It was intoxicating and she was drawn to her like a magnet to its opposite pole.
    "Come let me borrow, give your heart to me, daughter of tomorrow." Sabrine chanted the simple spell of attraction.
    "Hello." Sarah Jane said simply. "I'm called Sarah."
    "Nothing could be fairer than a pretty flower called Sarah." Sabrine smiled. "You have potential. Tell me what do you know of the power of women?"
    "Everything." Sarah Jane smiled. "We're changing the world where I come from. It's been a long time coming but now we're taking what is owed to us."
    "Could you have the strength to take the whole world?" Sabrine mused. "Do you want the power to control men like puppets? To ride the sky like a hawk? Do you yearn to learn how to control the very elements themselves? I can teach you all of this and more."
    Sarah Jane wasn't quite sure how much of the strange woman's words were boasting and how much were truth. Obviously she was some sort of alien but she suspected that any alien that wanted to help womankind couldn't be a bad alien. "OK, I'm all ears."

    Tomás was annoyed. "Es más difícil de honor de una mujer en una ramera house." He hated women in general because he was a priest and intelligent women in particular because they tended to speak out against the god-given right of men to rule the world in his name.

    The Doctor looked around and saw a distinct lack of Sarah Jane Smith. At first he thought she'd just wandered off to see things for himself, but Sarah Jane was a reporter, she was always asking him questions, not because she wasn't intelligent but because she was intelligent and constantly wanted answers to all the questions that she could think of. If she wasn't here then it was highly unlikely that she wandered off on her own, more likely some third party had intervened to either kidnap her or lure her away somehow.
    "Lost your mare then have you?" Jacques sneered at his rival. "You're rubbish at this, give it up and be a gardener or something harmless like that."
    "Have you seen Sarah Jane?" The Doctor asked. "Have you kidnapped her?"
    "Us?" Jillian scoffed. "Do me a favour. We wouldn't know we'd beaten you fair and square if we cheated. We may be scoundrels, rogues and thief-takers but we do have a code of ethics. We'll best you, believe that, but to be the greatest we have to earn that right. Abducting primitives and holding them hostage? We're more the shoot people dead type. Know what I mean?"
    "Besides we know who took your precious little filly." Jacques grinned. "She did, the one we're all after. I had my gun lined up on her and then they started talking. At first I thought it was a trap of yours, a decoy. That made me angry, but then I saw them smiling and walking off and I realised that she'd got to your strumpet and turned her against you. Oh how I laughed then."

    Sarah Jane smiled as she felt the power of the Carrionites within her skin. She felt so good, so alive, so in control of herself. With a word she would blacken the sun and darken the sky. She could turn the moon red and boil the seas. She was power, she was control, she was the instrument of Carrionite freedom. She would save her people, she would rescue them. She would give them justice, liberation and freedom. She would be their saviour. They deserved to live, they deserved to exist, they were much more worthy than mere human beings. She felt sorry for humanity and was glad that she'd left that species far behind.

    The Doctor could sense the wrongness of it all. Space-Time was being warped, horribly twisted and mutilated, it was the cosmic equivalent of a fire alarm going off inside of a fire station – it was that dangerous. "Where are they then?" He protested. "That sorry collection of traffic wardens will be skulking around here somewhere, they always send someone to keep an eye on things."
    "Who are you on about?" Jacques asked.
    "My people," the Doctor sighed. "The Time Lords. They always turn up when someone starts meddling with the laws of time and space. They won't let me get the job done without someone, somewhere, keeping an eye on me."
    "So you're not a bounty hunter?" Jillian asked.
    "Never make assumptions," the Doctor lectured. "It can be very dangerous to get the wrong idea about someone. Someone here is meddling with the laws of reality, without any idea of what will happen if they make a mess of things. There are creatures outside of reality that would get in and eat as much of it as they can before they burn up because the laws in here are different to the laws out there. It would be like a snowman forcing open an oven and then climbing inside to eat the gingerbread man." He followed his well-trained nose to the source of the trouble. He saw Sarah Jane with a strange alien woman. "Sarah, come over here, quickly."
    "Don't tell me what to do." Sarah felt like she was in a dream, she could do anything she wanted to do. "I'm a free woman."
    "Yes you are, Sarah Jane Smith." The Doctor smiled. "However you're in terrible trouble, that woman is up to no good. She's meddling with forces she can't comprehend."
    "He just wants to take our power from us." Sabrine smiled. "Men can't be allowed to tell us what to do anymore."
    "I agree," said Sarah Jane. "Leave us alone, Doctor."
    "I'm afraid I can't." The Doctor sighed. "If I can feel the distortions in the space-time continuum then my people certainly can. They have machines that can measure the direction in which an electron spins around an atomic nuclei when it's located on the other side of the universe."
    "Leave us!" Sabrine hissed, before seeing the bounty hunters. "It's a trap!" She let loose a bolt of energy at the three interlopers.
    "What?" The Doctor gasped as the energy pulse hit him in the chest, stopping both of his hearts.

    Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger looked down at their completed work. They knew that the church hated women almost as much as they did. Both had been spurned by strong-minded women who would rather do without a husband than agree to be their wives. To them it was only proper that a woman should be the subordinate servants of men, and with their new treatise they could manipulate others into getting rid of all the strong-minded women by labelling them as witches and servants of Satan. It was a clever ploy because the church was always looking for ways to promote its anti-female agenda. To them only a man could create life and the fact that women were living proof their religion was a false one constantly burned in their guts like fire and acid.

    "Get them!" Jillian led the charge.
    "We must fly," Sabrine said to her new acolyte.
    "How?" Sarah Jane asked.
    "Kill them both!" Jacques snarled gleefully. "Slowly though, I want to savour these deaths."
    "From land to air man doth try to imitate the birds and fly but only women can ride the sky!" Sabrine lifted Sarah up into the air as she flew them both to safety.
    "That is bull shonk!" Jillian snapped, letting off a hail of bullets at the escaping women. "Grak it all to Rall."
    "They killed the old man too," Jacques sighed. "Let the locals deal with his corpse, we have to begin the hunt anew."

    It was as if time stood still and then reversed itself for a moment. The unseen coweled silvery figure watched as the red lightning flared all around the room, expanding and then contracting again on its target. The Doctor screamed once before clenching his jaw shut again. He would not give into the pain, he would not give his enemy the satisfaction of knowing he was losing, dying. The pain surged and all was quiet for a single moment. A stillness filled the air and the Doctor knew he was going to die. There was too much damage to heal naturally, nothing natural could save him now. Only Rassilon's gift could renew him and he'd never managed that before without help. The first time the TARDIS had helped him through it, he'd been so weak, so arrogant, refusing to relinquish that life almost at the cost of everything. Then his own people had forced him to regenerate. Oh not at first of course, that would be too easy. No, they made him their puppet, promising the offset of his sentence for every mission he partook, until that last time, the Ice Warriors. No, don't think about that now. They could have saved everyone but they took him out of time and made him endure his renewal under medical conditions. He'd been perfectly aware of what was happening. They called it compassionate, to stretch it out for ten whole days to make sure every cell was revitalised fully. A wild regeneration had to be better, uncontrolled, truly random. Anything could happen. He could end up with two heads, or none at all. The perfect moment of clarity passed and all was pain and suffering once more and then the Doctor died.

    It wasn't supposed to be like this. The world never felt so strange, so peculiar, so bizarre. All of her moods were filtered through one emotion, one feeling, one need, one craving, one all-consuming fire. Love. She was in love! Falling deeper and deeper into its fiery embrace with every moment. She loved it and feared it. Love was the opposite of what she wanted. She wanted a life free of attachments, commitments, connections, bonds. She was her own woman, all of time and space were hers to visit and explore. Now all that was changed, fundamentally, forever. She couldn't imagine doing all of that without him now. The stars were meaningless if he wasn't there to see them with him. Worlds were just places unless they were walking on them arm in arm looking deep into each others eyes and knowing that they were there together.
    The bitch killed the Doctor! Sarah Jane snapped out of her power trip and glared at her now former teacher. "He was my friend!"
    "He was just a man," Sabrine snarled. "We are superior to him in every way."
    "Lady, you'll never be superior to him." Sarah Jane knew she couldn't defeat her teacher with magic, so she used physical power. She lashed out with a tiny balled fist and knocked her rival to the floor. "He was a better teacher than you! He taught me all about love, compassion, mercy, justice, everything that makes a woman strong. You have nothing to teach me, your ways are not those of the women of this world. Though they are tied down now they will rise up, they will regain their power, they will be free. I am their legacy. Women's liberation is not about freeing ourselves of male domination, its about empowering ourselves to be the women we want to be, to define ourselves in our own way. Your way is just an endless cycle of slavery and you can't even see the bars on your prison Sabrine, I pity you. Words are all you have. Well I have words and actions. I am the word and deed."

    The pain had ended. There was a tingling to the body. Everything was new, brimming with life and energy. Skin, cold and naked. Eyes, twenty colour vision, as good as ever. Smell, phew, the stench of the grave.
    The Doctor sat up and saw a man faint. "That's unusual." Long dark hair fell into the eyes. "Very unusual. I'm a girl!" No, it couldn't be that random could it? "My voice! I am a girl!" The sight of her own breasts confirmed matters. "How's this possible? No one said I could turn into a girl! I'll have to wear bras now for the rest of my life – lives possibly." She looked back at the unconscious man. "Am I that ugly?" Then she realised that she was in a primitive mortuary. "Oh, I've just risen from the grave. I guess they don't see that sort of thing very often. I remember Drax did that once many years ago, some sort of prank that ended up as a religion or something like that. Clothes, I should probably find some. Naked women are usually frowned upon by every major species, except the Nudoes of Nudos of course. Must avoid going there if at all possible, I really don't want to be that sort of woman."
    She eventually wrapped the off-white shroud around her chest to make a primitive sort of dress before leaving the room; before the unconscious man awoke with questions she'd rather not ask just now. "Maybe I should investigate shoes?" The cold floor was rough and couldn't be doing her new skin any good at all. "Flats or heels? Now that is the question I'd have asked Will if I was the me I am when I was the me I was when I rewrote his play for him. Then again I'd probably just seize up and stammer a lot."
    For some reason the idea of attractive men made her mind work in odd ways that it had never worked in before. Obviously human males were out of the question, except as friends, but Drax was pretty cute and the Master had a rugged quality about himself even though he was completely insane.
    She decided to head back to the TARDIS to find something that could fit her new self and the idea of trying on every single outfit at least seven times filled her with positive vibes, it could be fun selecting a new clothing look. After all, clothes very much make the woman and she wanted something that had a classy look but was hard wearing too.
    "Maybe I should do something with all this hair too? Start off with something simple, something nice and feminine."

    Tomás looked at the guards as they began to surround the home of the witches. "Hoy tenemos que hacer Voluntad de Dios."

    The Doctor tried on a skirt, it fitted nicely, flattering her legs, but it wouldn't do for a lot of running about in and she always ended up doing a lot of running…for some reason or another. Trousers it'd have to be, but there was nothing wrong with the odd skirt or pretty dress for a nice relaxing formal occasion, like a dance or a party. The idea of letting a man take the lead with her while dancing seemed right and proper so she gave it no more thought as she moved on to finding the right blouse that conveyed a sense of sensible businesswoman mixed with flighty Time Lady of leisure.
    The bra straps were still digging somewhat into her shoulders and she was beginning to suspect that she'd have to investigate learning out how to adjust them. At least the knickers were a comfy one-size fits all affair. It was odd how very different her hips and bum were now but the briefs fitted her new shape perfectly. Well that was what they were designed to do after all. She suddenly became aware just how little she actually knew about women and here she was now one of them.
    They say be yourself, but what woman can walk perfectly in a pair of heels the first time she tries them on? Maybe she'd just stick to something plain and sensible for her first time in public? A nice trouser suit and subtle make up, jewellery and nothing really extravagant like a push up bra.

    Sarah Jane studied the ancient texts, looking to see how the power of words could reshape the universe. "I see, language replaces mathematics as the basic underpinning of the structure of the universe. That's an interesting point as we've had a lot of experience in my time with the use of propaganda to control people."
    "Exactly." Sabrine smiled. "Words have power, the right words spoken in the right order can create beauty beyond words or unleash a nightmare."

    The Doctor emerged from the TARDIS feeling much more like her new self, at least what she wanted her new self to feel like. Gone were the baggy ill-fitting flares and smoking jacket. Gone was the frilly shirt and far too big shoes. In their place she wore a simple brown trouser suit that fitted and flattered her new feminine figure. Comfy pink converse boots adorned her feet, totally girly but also practical and over it all she wore a long dark blue coat that added just a hint of swooshy super heroine quality to her look. It had been either this or something that made her look like a tart and to be honest with herself she'd rather look like a lady of time than a tart, at least until she got herself a boyfriend. "Now to save Sarah Jane from that slapper."
    Had she just decided she wanted to get herself a boyfriend? Best not to think about guys just yet, it would distract her and complicate things and besides what would she actually do with one? She had a wife a long time ago and a son. Would she really have to be his wife and have his kids? One might be nice, two better, three superb. No she wasn't the settling down kind, her new hormones were just distracting her with weird thoughts about men with their muscles and hairy bodies and mouths you just wanted to snog for ages and ages…stop that woman, get a grip! Rescue Sarah first, then fantasise about guys later.

    Tomás almost had a fit when the strange woman incapacitated half of his guards. "Aprovechar su!"
    "I don't think so." The Doctor has not the expert in Venusian aikido that she used to be but she was still pretty handy with the old self defence. "Someone really should have said no to you a long time ago. I'm here for the creature that ensnared my friend with her lies and deceits."
    "Yo le detiene!" Tomás lunged at the offensively dressed woman but she almost broke his jaw with her fists. "¿Qué manera de diablo estás?"
    "I'm the woman that devils are scared of." The Doctor replied and walked on into the house. "Hello, Sarah Jane?"
    "Who are you?" Sarah Jane asked. "You're wearing trousers. I'm the only woman here wearing trousers."
    "Death can't keep a good Doctor down." The Doctor replied. "How do I look? I still feel a little woozy. Hearts are both fine, skin a lot softer than before. The hair's new but I'll get used to it. I have no idea how I managed to get this bra on so quickly, never having worn one before now. Still all in all I think I'm fine. It could have been worse I suppose. Come on Sarah Jane, stop gawping there's a good girl and let's get back to the TARDIS."
    "Doctor?" Sarah Jane was completely confused. "Is that really you?"
    "Yes, do you think I should undo another button on this blouse or would that make me look too tarty? It's a fine line between wanting to exhibit your femininity and basically giving men an excuse to look at your cleavage and not your face when they talk to you."
    "You're a feminist?" Sarah Jane was surprised and proud of the woman who may be her former best friend. "What about Sabrine?"
    "I think we should leave her to the tender mercies of those tasked with the duties of tracking her down," the Doctor replied. "They may have some mercy, while I have none."
    "How can you be the Doctor?" Sarah Jane asked. "He was full of mercy and compassion. He was a good man."
    "Yes I was him, now I'm me," the Doctor replied. "I am the woman that people do not cross, I am the line that none shall pass. I am the retribution of the victim, the merciless avenger of the abused. I am the approaching tempest and all shall fear my advance. I am the Doctor."
    "Pretty words," Sabrine sneered. "I name thee, Lady, hearts of ice and fire. I name thee for all time, Doctor!"
    "Is that supposed to impress me?" The Doctor asked. "That's not how a naming goes, now is it? I win the fight, by truth and light, I name thee thus: Carrionite!"
    "Nooooooooo!" Sabrine screamed and flew backwards out of the window to escape the looming hurricane.



    "Got her!" Jillian said as she held the Carrionite firmly in her grasp. "Your word magic doesn't work on female flesh, your species' one true weakness. Send a woman to catch a woman, and that was a woman's great plan. You're going to love to hate our boss, she's very unforgiving."
    Jacques smiled at the Carrionite prisoner and teleported himself and the two women to the hall of the Eternals. "Captain Wrack will see us shortly."
    "You're a traitor to your gender," Sabrine chided Jillian. "You're doing men's work for them."
    "Oh I'm hardly a man." Captain Wrack smiled as she appeared in the room. "And neither is he anymore." She waved her hand and Jacques became Jacqueline. "Now you can hardly say you weren't tried, convicted and executed by your peers can you? I don't care much for the lesser species, they're either useful to me or they're not, but I do so very much hate a hypocrite. You see your species is divided along lines of its own making, instead of working together you drive yourselves apart. It's quite sad really, women should be proud to be women and likewise with men. Instead you're always trying to compete in silly little ways to prove nothing of consequence. I find you guilty of being inferior; Sabrine of the Carrionites, your crime is banishment from existence!"

    Tomás watched as the evil Sabrine was taken up to heaven by two angels. He wasn't sure why one of them was female but who was he to question God's will?

    Sarah Jane looked at the strange woman who called herself Doctor. "Is that really you?"
    "Yes and no." The Doctor replied. "I have all the memories of the man you knew but this me is entirely new. I'm a brand new woman literally, who I am from now on is a mystery to us both but I'm looking forward to finding out more about this new me. For instance I don't seem to like chips anymore, or the colour yellow. I now like red wine more than white and I really think we need to talk. You've been unhappy for a long time now, Sarah Jane. I think I was too preoccupied with myself to realise that you were deeply in love, back on Peladon. So that's where we're going, I'm taking you home Sarah Jane, to the woman you love."
    "I…how did…thank you." Sarah Jane hugged her friend.

    Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger finished the last line of their wonderfully spiteful misogynistic text when the door was kicked open and the papal Swiss Guard burst in and arrested them both for slandering the holy mother of Christ.

    Queen Thalia was delighted to see the love of her life return. "Sarah!"
    "Your majesty!" Sarah Jane smiled as they hugged and then kissed.
    "I'll be back, for the wedding," the Doctor promised. "I love a good wedding, I can be your bridesmaid Sarah. Never been a bridesmaid before."
    "You will always be welcome here on Peladon, Lady Doctor. I pronounce you a noble woman of my court. The mines of Mount Borias will be yours, we'll look after them for you until you return."
    "You do me a great honour." The Doctor smiled. "I wonder if I should pay a visit to my old friend Lord Haszid on Draconia? His reaction to my new me will be interesting to see. I'll see you both later."
    The Doctor left the court room as Sarah Jane and Thalia began to kiss and hold hands once again.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

Thine Own Self

Oh, but four weeks left now! Where's the time gone? So, with Christmas coming – and with it a two Doctor-featuring special – we're onto story 8, and Russell Williams has stepped up to very graciously help out with a vacated story slot once more. It's a lovely little tale with the Fifth Doctor, who wasn't one of Russell's favourites initially, but he's grown to appreciate the 'open-faced' incarnation as he wrote the story. It's a lovely change of pace this week, just before the last few stories leading up to the finale. So, sit down with a mug of tea and enjoy:
Thine Own Self
    Perpugilliam Brown stared out of the large bay windows in her bedroom, surveying the lush gardens of the monastery and the vast green rolling hills beyond. She was reminded of the fall mornings back home in the States, the leaves of the trees were starting to turn orange and golden and the early morning mist was still lingering in the air. The Eye of Orion was certainly one of the most tranquil places she had ever visited, exactly as the Doctor had told her.
    Unfortunately, tranquility only had appeal for a brief period of time, especially for a twenty-year-old student who had signed on for adventure and experiencing the wonders of the universe. Not that the Vraylaxians were boring company, far from it, but one could only take so many stories around the fireplace or reading in the monasteries vast library. She had enjoyed a walk around the gardens, taking in the variety of alien plant species that had been grown here since its establishment three-hundred-years earlier.
    But even that grew boring. Peri wanted to leave, but in order to leave this planet she needed the Doctor. And therein lay the problem. Following the harrowing and almost fatal visit to Androzani Minor a month earlier, the Doctor had withdrawn into himself, setting the TARDIS to land here and then entering seclusion with the monks to meditate: leaving Peri alone with a bunch of alien monks that she had never met in her life. Charming and so unlike the Doctor she thought she knew.
    Shaking her head, Peri turned around to face the room and saw Lom, the Vraylaxian prylar who had been assigned to her, standing in the doorway, his head bowed.
    "Morning Lom, how are you today?" Peri asked smiling.
    Lom bowed his head further and looked up at Peri. "Good morning, Miss Brown. I am fine, thank you. Did you sleep well?"
    Thank God these monks haven't taken a vow of silence. Peri thought. "Yes, I did thank you. Tell me Lom, is there any word of the Doctor?"
    Lom shuffled his feet uncomfortably, which was no mean feat considering he had four of them, and made a considerable noise as the shoe leather scraped against the stone floor.
    "I'm afraid not, Miss Brown. He is still deep in seclusion with our Elders, and doesn't wish to be disturbed. Although I am informed that he makes constant enquiries with regards to your wellbeing and made it clear to ensure you that he is fine."
    "That's all well and good Lom, but I want to see him. Why won't he let me?" Peri shouted, visibly becoming quite emotional.
    "I assure you that I cannot say. The Doctor will return when he feels that he has resolved any issues that he is dealing with. It is common knowledge that he suffered in the days following your arrival here."
    "Yeah? Well he wasn't the only one, and you don't find me hiding myself away!" Peri shouted.
    "My apologies. I meant no offense." Lom whispered, his head once again bowed. "Please, Miss Brown, we only wish to help you both through this difficult time. Perhaps a visit to the library or gardens would lift your spirits."
    "Yeah. Sounds marvellous," Peri said, sarcastically.
    A few hours later, in the monastery's garden, the Doctor, dressed in a simple purple gown, was sat in the middle of a patch of grass in the lotus position, his eyes closed. Physically, the Doctor was the same one who had landed on Androzani Minor a month earlier, but mentally he was in a completely different place.
    Regeneration. A unique trait in Time Lord biology, a way of cheating death as he often thought of it. When the process went well, the Doctor would be changed both inside and out and essentially, a new man would walk away. However, it had been rather different this time as the process had been stopped at the initial stage.
    Lying on the TARDIS floor in agony as the spectrox toxemia did its deadly work, the Doctor had made a grab at the vial of bat's milk that he thought he had used up to rescue Peri from his fate. In his death throws, he lifted the vial to his mouth and drunk up the remnants of what was inside. Then he had faded into blackness.
    Suddenly the silence inside the dark was shattered with a quiet "Doctor?" Despite his best attempts to answer, he couldn't quite do it. Suddenly his name was repeated a bit louder. Still he could not reply, and then he felt a shaking as if someone had grabbed him roughly by the shoulders. Finding the strength from somewhere, the Doctor quickly opened his eyes and saw a figure standing over him. Peri was alive. He had succeeded.
    "Hmm. My dear girl... when I say... reverse the polarity of the... jelly baby... before breakfast.." The Doctor shook his head and then rubbed his eyes. "Peri? Peri you're okay. Thank heavens."
    "I think I'm okay, but what about you. What's all the babble about jelly babies? And what is a jelly baby?" Peri asked confused.    
    "Jelly babies? A type of sweet... erm, candy. I used to be quite fond of them back in the day. Not now though, I'd much rather have a mint imperial, less likely to rot your teeth and at my age that's a real concern."
    The Doctor finally got up and staggered over to the console, where he proceeded to check all of the instruments. His checks done he looked over at Peri.
    "You'll be pleased to know that we've left Androzani Minor." The Doctor looked momentarily lost in thought, before he moved over to the interior door of the TARDIS.
    "Doctor, where are you going? We haven't landed yet."
    "Don't question me child. I've been piloting the TARDIS for longer than your entire family line has existed. I think I know what I'm doing," the Doctor shouted.
    Shocked at his outburst, Peri slumped into the wicker chair and watched as the Doctor left the console room, slamming the internal door behind him.
    The horrible memories of previous events forced the Doctor to open his eyes wide. Standing in front of him was the head monk, Praris, a female Vraylaxian in the senior phase of her life judging by the slightly muted hue of her skin colour when compared to younger members of her species. Out of respect, the Doctor got up out of the lotus position and bowed at the elder.
    "Elder Praris, I did not know that you were meditating in the garden today, or else I would not have disturbed you. My apologies."
    Praris raised her hand and placed it upon the Doctor's forehead. The Time Lord was slightly startled by the gesture, but wisely, decided not to move.
    "Think nothing of it Doctor. You are our guest here and all of our facilities are at your disposal as you have been made aware."
    "Thank you, Elder." The Doctor once again bowed in respect.
    "You seem troubled, Doctor. Perhaps more so than the day you arrived here. Walk with me." Praris began to move off, leaving the Time Lord little alternative but to follow.
    "Do I seem more troubled? The meditation and the break from routine has certainly 'recharged my batteries' to use a Human expression."
    "And yet you still relive the memories of your aborted regeneration."
    The Doctor stopped for a second, slightly shocked that Praris was able to interpret his memories, before he remembered some of the capabilities possessed by the highest clerics of the Vraylaxians. Yet still he was impressed, and a little bit disturbed that Praris had "read him like a book".
    "It is true, yes. But I am deeply disturbed by what personality aberration occurred within me. For a second, I was filled with hatred and rage and I directed it at my companion. Who knows what would have happened had I acted upon it?"
    "It is indeed disturbing Doctor, but as you say, you did not act upon the impulse. Instead you came here to seek meditation and counselling. Yet, there are some among us who feel that you should have turned to your own people in your hour of need."
    "The Time Lords? I think not!" The Doctor raised his voice, uncharacteristically.
    "Why ever not, Doctor? While you and your companion are most welcome, you have been here for a month and appear to have made little progress in centring yourself."
    "Besides the fact that during our last few encounters I have been chased and sentenced to death, and then being forced to go on the run after being declared President!" Praris glared at the Doctor, but he continued. "Among my people, those Time Lords who have aborted their regenerations are regarded as "abnormal". Typically, the only treatment given is to force a regeneration, and that's certainly not a pleasurable experience, I can tell you."
    "A harsh treatment indeed, Doctor, but perhaps it could be for the best. Your mind has been torn apart by this change, is it not right that it should be brought to its conclusion? It would alleviate your suffering, as well as that of your companion."
    "Peri! How is she suffering? Is she ill? Negative side effects of the spectrox or the bat's milk?" the Doctor asked, more animated than he had been in weeks. Praris, sensing his panic, once again rested her hand on his head, calming the Time Lord.
    "Peri is absolutely fine, Doctor. There is no sign of the spectrox, our physician has been monitoring her constantly as you asked. I'm afraid the only mallady that is affecting her is boredom and concern over your wellbeing."
    "Thank you, Praris. You have put my mind at ease."
    "If only that were the case, Doctor. I suggest you think on what has been said, this day."
    With the rather limited options presented to her, Peri decided to go for the least boring option and decided to visit the library with Lom. Despite herself, Peri couldn't help but be in awe of the tremendous library that was housed inside the building, a cathedral sized room with rows and rows of wooden book cases with literally thousands of books on every subject in the cosmos. During her stay, Peri had visited quite a few times and had wiled the evenings away studying up on her botany. She'd certainly wow a few people back home. If she ever made it back that was.
    Now don't be stupid, Perpugilliam. Of course the Doctor will get you back home, Peri chided herself, as she moved over to the botany section and began studying the book titles to see anything she hadn't read yet or hadn't jumped out at her before. Distractingly, Lom was still stood behind her just staring. Peri turned around to confront him.
    "Y'know, I'm going to be here a while, Lom, why don't you go off and find something that interests you. I'm certain I know my way around by now, and you won't be too far away, I'm sure." Peri smiled.
    "As you wish, Miss Brown. Do not hesitate to call upon me if I can assist you." Lom bowed and walked off.
    Thank God. I hate having a chaperone, reminds me of Howard at the Prom. Poor Dylan. Peri shivered and continued look at the titles.
    After a few minutes of browsing, she found nothing of interest and set out to explore the other areas of the library now she felt more free to move about. As she moved around the vast cases, she found it very odd that there were very few people apart from the librarian and, of course, Lom. Not too surprising that there weren't many tourists; after all the Eye of Orion wasn't noted as a top destination, but she expected a few clerics at least.
    As Peri rounded a corner, she noticed that there was a small desk and chair located underneath one of the large cathedral-style windows. As she passed she saw that a book had been left, open, on the table. Cursing the carelessness of some, Peri was about to close the book up and put it back on the shelf when she saw something inside which shook her to her core: A faint pencil drawing of The Master.
    Slipping into the chair to gather herself, she began flicking through the book and found various other pictures of people, places and creatures that she didn't recognize: bizarre people in armour with funny masks; some form of pepper-pot with a plunger and a whisk sticking out of it; and a bizarre Rhino creature wearing a skirt. As Peri flicked through a few more pages, she suddenly stopped when she noticed another all too familiar face in the book: The Doctor.
    Peri jumped up, taking the book with her, and ran across the library. "Lom! Lom!" she shouted, which drew the attention of the nearby librarian who shushed her, causing Peri to cry out, "Oh, shush yourself! This is important!" All the commotion quickly drew the attention of Lom, who suddenly appeared from behind a bookshelf.
    "Miss Brown, what is the matter? Are you well?" he asked, concerned.
    "Lom, where did this book come from?" Peri said as she offered him the book, which he took, and started to examine the cover. Unfortunately it was very well worn and much of the lettering had been obliterated.
    "I do not know, I have never seen this before. Perhaps if you asked the librarian..."
    Peri took back the book and they both made their way over to the librarian's desk to find the librarian stood with her arms crossed and a very haughty expression on her face.
    "Oh, ah... Hi. Look I'm really sorry about a minute ago, I just had a bit of a shock and was overcome. I didn't mean to be rude."
    The librarian stood unmoved for a few seconds, before finally smiling and nodding her acceptance of Peri's apology. "What can I do for you, Miss?"
    "Thank you. I was just wondering if you could tell me anything about this book." Peri handed the book over for the librarian to study. After several minutes studying the cover and the contents, she didn't seem to have any more luck deciphering its presence in the library than Lom did.
    "I'm sorry, I really can't help you. You must understand that the library has been around for two hundred years and our records weren't that extensive in those days. This book certainly looks like it has been here for some time."
    "Well thank you for checking anyway. Do you mind if I borrow it? I really need to show it to a friend."
    The librarian nodded, and Peri ran off out of the library, quickly followed by Lom.
    The Doctor was dozing peacefully in his room when suddenly a loud bang, followed by more bangs woke him up from his slumber. Realizing it was the door, he got up off his bed and moved to open the door. As he reached for the handle, he heard some scuffling outside, and quickly opened the door to see what all the commotion was about. The first thing he saw was Peri waving a book above her head and shouting at a young cleric; Lom, he seemed to remember. Just for a second he was reminded of his former companion, Tegan. What is it with Human females?
    "Would someone mind telling me why there is a riot going on outside my room?"
    "Doctor!" Both Peri and Lom said in unison.
    Lom continued, "Doctor, I'm sorry that we disturbed your rest time, but Miss Brown was quite... insistent on seeing you."
    "Damn right I was. You saw the book, Lom. You know it's important!" Peri shouted. "Doctor, please?"
    The Doctor sighed a little before nodding and welcoming Peri into his room, closing the door behind them and leaving a ruffled Lom outside. Peri proceeded to sit on the bed as the Doctor stood in the doorway.
    "Peri. You can't go around treating our hosts that way, it's just not... cricket." The Doctor admonished, before his face softened. "Are you alright?"
    "I'm fine, I've just been worried about you. I haven't seen you in weeks and I just wanted to talk to you, but Praris and Lom kept fobbing me off."
    "I really am sorry, Peri. I've been selfish, trying to figure out my own problems, forgetting that you've suffered just as much as I have. I've been neglectful. Well no longer." The Doctor slumped down on the bed next to Peri.
    "What do you mean?" Peri asked, deeply concerned.
    "I've decided that I can't deal with this life anymore as I realized that I can't carry on placing those I care about in danger. I once vowed to change my ways after Tegan left unexpectedly, but have I really? You nearly died on Androzani."
    "But I didn't, Doctor. We both made it through and live to have adventures for another day."
    "True, we were lucky. But what about those who I've travelled with who haven't been so lucky? Every day I see the faces of Katarina, Sara and Adric in my mind, reminding me that the cost of living for me is the deaths of my friends. Well no more, Peri. Tomorrow we're going to return to the TARDIS and then I'm going to take you back home."
    "No, Doctor, you can't just give in like this. What're you going to do?"
    "What I should have done a long time ago, but I was too cowardly to do it. I'm returning to Gallifrey and taking my place as Lord President. Forced regeneration or not."
    "That's not you, Doctor. I know it isn't. Your destiny lies elsewhere, I've seen it."
    "What do you mean?"
    "This book, Doctor! I found it in the library here. I think you should take a look at it, and decide for yourself." Peri left the book on the bed as she got up and exited the room, concealing her tears as she went.
    That night, the Doctor decided to do exactly as Peri had suggested and choose to read the book that she was insistent on him seeing. Noting the battered cover with no discernable marks, he decided to read on with some trepidation and was slightly taken aback when he noted some Gallifreyan text on the tattered and ripped opening page and it read:
A Journal of Impossible Things by John Smith
    Against his better judgement, the Doctor continued to read through the book of half-remembered stories and childlike images of the many companions and enemies he had fought over the years: the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, the Sontarans and the multitude of other villains both alien and human alike. As he read on further, he finally got to one page which displayed ten different faces: five he recognized, five he didn't. They were his faces.
    When he finally finished, and after admoninshing hiself for violating several Laws of Time, the Doctor stood up, no longer the slightly cowed man of recent days, he once again had the swagger and confidence of a Time Lord. He walked over to the mirror on the far wall and stared at himself and then smiled.
    "I AM The Doctor."
    "Here we are then. Home. Like we've never been away." The Doctor said as he walked over to the TARDIS console. As he arrived, he affectionately patted it ,which drew a smile from Peri.
    "I never thought I'd miss these bland white walls and roundels," Peri quipped.
    "I don't know, I've always liked it. Better than the mahogany and brass of the secondary control room. Oh, and don't forget the leopard skin. Ghastly. Wouldn't mind trying out the coral one day though..." The Doctor mused.
    "Leopard skin? Coral? Doctor, this machine of yours never ceases to amaze me. Every bit as baffling as her owner." Peri laughed as the Doctor gave her an affectionate smile.
    "Talking of changes, I supposed I'd better get changed. While I don't mind purple, I can't really see it going down well on the planet Melfuzius."
    "Why?" Peri asked.
    "Well the Melfuzians have a rather bizarre visual spectrum and they are blind to any hue of purple. They're not too clever with yellow either so I'd be like the Invisible Man."
    Peri laughed as the Doctor exited the console room through the internal door. After a few minutes she decided to follow as the sounds of shuffling drew Peri in the direction of the wardrobe room. As she entered the Doctor was contemplating himself in a full-length dress mirror wearing his usual outfit, without his jacket and wearing a slightly different jumper.
    "Is that a new jumper? I don't think I've seen that before."
    "Hmm? The jumper. No, it's my old one, I thought I'd try it out again. Seems the old one was somewhat ruined. I'm not sure about the shirt though."
    The Doctor took off his jumper and threw it over the mirror, before moving to examine his shirt in the mirror more thoroughly.
    "The shirt's fine. Never understood those question marks though, what's that all about?"
    "Those stupid things!" The Doctor laughed. "My previous self lost a rather large bet to my old friend, Azmael, which meant I have to wear these things for the next two hundred years. The old rogue even got aboard the TARDIS and had all my clothing altered. Still, time to put the past to rest I think."
    The Doctor disappeared into a walk-in wardrobe and out of Peri's sight. A few minutes later, he reappeared wearing a light blue coloured shirt (sans question marks), a white cricket jumper with a red pattern round the neck, a pair of cream coloured trousers and a pair of white shoes. At the sight of the Doctor, Peri jumped up in surprise.
    "Why Doctor, definitely an improvement! Those striped trousers used to give me a headache."
    "Thank you, Peri, I'm glad you like it. Now all I need is a jacket, the old one doesn't feel quite right now."
    Peri rummaged amongst the various racking and railings pulling out various jackets at random, eventually pulling out a rather monstrous multi-coloured jacket.
    "Yuck! Where ever did you get this from, Doctor? Another bet?"
    The Doctor laughed. "Do you know, I believe it was. Not quite fitting though."
    Peri returned to the rack and continued to examine various items until she pulled out a navy blue jacket with white buttons. She offered it to the Doctor, who gently took it from her and put it on, before checking himself out in the mirror.
    "Peri, you have a real eye. Marvellous. What do you think?"
    Peri gave the Doctor the once over before giving him the thumbs up. "Oh, just one thing missing." Peri moved over to behind the mirror and picked up the Doctor's old jumper, before dumping it on the floor again. Hiding something in her hand, she moved over to the Doctor and affixed something to his jacket. The celery. "There. That completes it. You look wonderful."
    "Thank you, Peri. Now I'm suitably attired, where shall we head to? The universe is your oyster!"
    "What, really?" Peri gasped.
    "Why not, I think you've definitely earned it after recent events."
    "In that case, there's been one thing I've always wanted to see up close since I was a little girl."
    "Go on."
    "Halley's comet."

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Updated links

Just a little update to the site as I've added some new links in the 'Places of Interest'; all rather splendid sites dedicated to the analysis/critique of fiction in different forms.

'The Little Literature Review' is Stu Munro's site concerning children's literature, looked at from a different perspective. Well worth checking out to see his take on your childhood favourites!

Along with that are two review sites by Joe Ford (aka Doc Oho), one concerned with Doctor Who in book form, the other in audio. Both give very well thought out and thorough reviews and are a great port of call if you're looking for something more than just a number rating (though he does that too!).

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Corrosion of Time

Story 7 and the welcome return of Tom Butler to the fold! The Seventh Doctor this week, and another interesting twist on the initial premise, which should become clear as you read. Sit back and enjoy...
The Corrosion of Time
    Cacophony. That was the most apt word that could have been used had anyone been around to hear it; the sound of time and space being rent asunder as the TARDIS materialised against a background of cold, dull metal. The Doctor and Glitz emerged from the blue box with a shiver.
    "Where are we now Doctor?" whined Glitz.
    "I'm afraid my calculations may have been a bit off."
    "That fills me with confidence."
    "Frozen lakes, metallic walls. We're at the end."
    "Oh that's very cheerful!" Glitz moaned sarcastically.
    "No, we're at The End. The planet right out on the edge of time and space, the furthest anyone has ever been able to travel."
    "Oh right. And here's me without a camera."
    The Doctor scowled at Glitz.
    "It's no accident we're here," he ominously said. "Something drew the TARDIS in, something powerful. Very powerful indeed."
    "Most definitely."
    "It's about time!" Glitz rubbed his hands together like a greedy little boy in a sweet shop.
    "This is far more serious than you could ever imagine Glitz. You humans, always so ready to go to arms." He paused. "Glitz, when Mel left me on Iceworld, why exactly were you so keen to travel with me?"
    Glitz held his arms out, almost in a shrug. "Well, I thought, with Mel leaving you you'd need of some company."
    "Oh pull the other one Glitz! You, doing something with no benefit whatsoever for yourself?" The Doctor narrowed his eyes, seeming to stare into Glitz's very soul.
    Immediately, Glitz responded, knowing there was no point in trying to appease the Doctor with lies. "Well come on Doctor, a chance to travel in time and space! Think of the possibilities! Who could turn that down?"
    "Yes, that's what worries me." Glitz didn't seem to have heard it, the Time Lord turning away from him as he spoke in a low whisper.
    Something on the floor glistened brightly and caught the Doctor's eye. He crouched down near the floor and pushed his hat up on his head, clearing his view. Buried in the ground was a human skull. It had been there a long time; as the sand and dirt in the air had passed over it the skull had been embedded into the ground. Fused into the skeleton were slivers of a metallic compound, some of which had wires attached.
    "Is that human?"
    "Yes, in a manner of speaking," replied the Doctor gravely. "I have a feeling I know who brought us here, I just don't know why."
    The Doctor spun round and grabbed Glitz by the arms.
    "Glitz listen to me very carefully."
    Suddenly all Glitz could see were bright lights, every colour crashing into one searing blur. He tried to concentrate on the Doctor.
    "There are three rules you must absolutely adhere to if we are to make it off this planet in one piece. First rule..."
    The colours shone brighter than before and in one painful crash of light and sound Glitz suffered from a hideous stabbing sensation in his head. As suddenly as it had started it stopped, and Glitz blinked the dots from his eyes. The Doctor was no longer in front of him. He looked around, confused. This wasn't The End. He was in some sort of underground tunnel, the sharp, jagged rock piercing the air around him.
    "Doctor?" Glitz's voice rang out in the dark, dank air. His eyes darted around, still adapting to the low light. He couldn't see anything.
    "Doctor?!" he shouted again. This time, he heard a reply.
    "Stop saying 'Doctor'!" Out of the darkness came his unmistakable figure, all panama hat and umbrella.
    "Doctor!" Glitz exclaimed.
    "What did I just say?" the Doctor scolded. "Running about the place caterwauling all day long. How did you get so far behind anyway?"
    "Sorry, I must have blacked out. The last thing I remember is being outside, looking at that skull. THREE RULES! There were three rules I had to remember to survive. What were they?"
    "Rules? You've gone insane, quite obviously. Down here two days and you've already lost your marbles."
    "Two days?"
    "Yes, two days, forty-eight hours, two thousand eight hundred and eighty minutes, one thousand seven hundred and two..."
    "Oh alright you pompous gasbag! I get the picture. How did I get down here?"
    "You walked, with me, the entire way. You haven't blacked out for one moment Glitz. The only time you've been out of my sight was in the last few minutes when you inexplicably dropped behind us."
    "But I don't remember any of it."
    "How very peculiar. I don't like the sound of that. What do you last remember?"
    "We were outside, we'd just landed on The End. You found a skull, it had bits of metal on it..."
    "The End? The planet at the furthest explored limit of time and space? Well that's impossible. I was right the first time, you've gone completely barmy!"
    "No, we were there. Just now. You had three rules, three rules to get us out alive. Only I blacked out before I heard them. Well, it was less black more every other colour." Glitz paused. "Hold on, did you say us?"
    Then from the darkness, as if on cue, emerged several people, dressed in aboriginal clothing. The men wore loincloths and ponchos made of animal hide, the women fur cowls that would have passed for dresses on Earth. They shuffled towards the Doctor and Glitz, clutching primitive weapons of clubs and spears.
    "Who are they?" Glitz asked.
    "Thelonians," the Doctor replied. "A primitive species perhaps but excellent hosts. We are on our way to a banquet, some sort of celebration I believe, in honour of a gallant hero. Either that or an execution. My Thelonian is a little rusty."
    Completely confused, Glitz followed the Doctor and the Thelonians further into the dark tunnel.


    "It's happened again," complained a young female voice. "Another hole in time."
    "You must break eggs to make an omelette Esseltine," replied Professor Swift. Swift was an educated man with multiple academic qualifications from many different worlds. However he was never satisfied with his place in the universe. He far preferred the idea of changing the world and making it his than teaching others how to do so. When something gave him the chance to do just that, he jumped at the opportunity.
    "But it's different this time. There's a far larger energy displacement from this world to the next. As if..."
    "Somebody was sucked through. But that's impossible. We're the only people here."
    "Well, apart from..."
    "They're not people. Not anymore anyway." Professor Swift turned to glare at Esseltine. "If one of them has been sucked into the void they'll come looking for someone to blame. And I'll make sure they find you entirely responsible."
    "But I didn't..." started Esseltine.
    "End of discussion. Investigate the discrepancy and report back. Nothing can stop them from succeeding. This world and all worlds beyond it shall be theirs. We have pledged our lives to the cause Esseltine, do not go weak on me now. The consequences are fatal."
    "Yes Professor." Esseltine retreated from the argument. She had come to Professor Swift for reassurance as she was never comfortable with how they were bending and tearing time and space for their own whims. A student of Swift's, Esseltine admired the man's intelligence and was overwhelmed when he asked her to join him on a very special assignment. Little did she know what was in store for her, especially encountering their new employers. She'd never seen a species so cold and absolute. It chilled her to the bone and from that moment she had been regretting her decision to join the Professor.


    The Thelonians lead the Doctor and Glitz into a massive room, a banquet hall carved out of the underground stone. It still had jagged bits of rock sticking out of the walls but was beautiful all the same. There was a huge spread of food laid out on several tables and a trio of musicians playing flute-type instruments. The songs were upbeat but due to the hollow construction of the instrument they were haunting.
    "I see I was right," exclaimed the Doctor. "About the celebration at least."
    "Look at that grub!" Glitz was practically drooling. He turned to one of the Thelonians.
    "When can we tuck in?"
    The Doctor stepped in, pulling Glitz away from the baffled Thelonian.
    "I'm terribly sorry," apologised the Doctor. To Glitz he spat, "That's the High Chief Thelonian. You don't ask royalty 'what time do we tuck in'! They may be a primitive species but they've still got more manners than you Glitz!"
    "It's been a very confusing morning!" Glitz attempted to defend himself. "First I was at The End, then I was in a cave, now I'm staring at food and I've just realised I haven't eaten in hours!"
    "You humans. If it's not violence it's greed. Food, money, relationships of a carnal nature. No wonder you get invaded by other worlds on such a regular basis! Sometimes I think the universe would be better off..."
    Glitz didn't get to hear the rest of the lecture, although he had a feeling he knew where it was going. The bright lights and shrill whine were back, this time even stronger and brighter and louder. Glitz let out a scream and clutched his head as the sound and light engulfed his mind.
    It subsided quickly and he opened his eyes. He was back on The End, back in front of the Doctor.
    "This is no time for silly beggars Glitz! Now follow me!"


    Deep in the bowels of The End were Esseltine and Professor Swift. In their makeshift lab set up within one of the metallic structures scattered upon the planet, they were repairing a giant device made of the same bold metal as the building they were in.
    "It's no use, it's beyond solving now," claimed Professor Swift.
    "But if we don't fix it time will continue to rip apart. We can't let that happen Professor!"
    "It's too late, the device is in the final stages. If we try to fix it now we could end up doing more damage."
    Esseltine's disappointment was soon forgotten as she heard the unmistakable clunk of metal on metal. The footsteps of their employers. It entered the room, all seven foot of it, glistening against the metallic walls.
    "Is the device ready?"
    "Yes, it has just entered the final stages. Now all we need is..."
    "The catalyst. He is here. Find him and bring him to us."
    "Yes, of course, it shall be done." Professor Swift grovelled.
    The giant lumbered past a cowering Esseltine. It stopped in front of her and turned to face her. Its head spun towards her, shortly followed by its entire body.
    "Your loyalty will be rewarded."
    Esseltine could only manage a whimper and a gentle nod. The metallic behemoth turned again and left the room, stomping down the corridor, the sound echoing through the building.
    "Really Esseltine, is that all you can manage? It's very disrespectful. Come on, let's go find the catalyst. Grab the Locator on your way out."
    Esseltine stood tall again and took the Locator, a simple piece of equipment that allowed them to track the heat signature of any life-form – providing it had one.


    In the lobby of the metallic structure the Doctor and Glitz waded through debris. The floor was covered with bits of metal and rock, a sign of years of neglect.
    "It seems as though no-one has set foot in here for quite some time."
    Glitz had other thoughts on his mind. Ever since the first jump, he had been trying to understand the events unfolding. The bright lights, the noise; what was triggering it? And how had the Doctor not noticed?
    "Doctor, what's happening to me?" Glitz asked.
    "What do you mean?"
    "I keep... switching. Like I'm zapping to different places in time."
    "Really?" The Doctor was intrigued. He stopped in his tracks and looked at Glitz with a furrowed brow. "Where do you go when you're... switching?"
    "We were in a cave..."
    "We? I was with you? I haven't felt anything like you're explaining."
    "No, it was you but a different you, if that makes any sense at all."
    "Not really Glitz, but then you never do make much sense."
    Glitz glared at the Doctor. He had gotten used to him treating human events flippantly, but this was not the time for jokes.
    "This is serious! There's something wrong with me."
    "Oh Glitz, you're making it too easy!" the Doctor continued to jape.
    "Doctor! What's going on? Why me?" demanded Glitz.
    "I don't know, some kind of void in time and space that keeps sucking you in. What have you been touching?" The Doctor pointed an accusatory finger at the former mercenary.
    "I haven't touched anything! It just... happens!"
    "Hmm..." The Doctor pondered on the situation for a moment. "Some kind of outside force is pulling you out of this time and into another – then pulling you back just as fast. And it started when we arrived on The End? In that case the problem must be here with us. The only logical thing to do is find the source of the problem and resolve the situation. Glitz? Are you listening to me?"
    But Glitz wasn't listening to the Doctor. He couldn't. All he could do was try and block out the searing colours and noises as he was displaced in time once more.


    "Fantastic stew, don't you think?"
    Glitz was dazed and unsure of how to answer the Doctor's latest question. For all the colours and noise, stew was the last thing on his mind.
    "I said fantastic stew Glitz. Try the sour bread." The Doctor gulped down the warm food. After two days without sustenance, even a Time Lord got hungry.
    "It happened again Doctor."
    "What did?"
    "The switch. I was pulled out of time again."
    "Whatever are you going on about Glitz? I shall have to give you a full medical examination when we return to the TARDIS, you're obviously not quite right."
    Glitz silenced himself further and tried to get his head round the enormity of what kept happening to him. Was he still walking and talking back on The End with the other Doctor? Or did he just slump to the ground when he switched? This Doctor said he was fine before, so did that mean this version of himself was now back on The End, just as confused as he was? It was all a little too much to take in, so Glitz helped himself to a bowl of stew. The Doctor was right, it was delicious.
    "Here, we go. Time for the giving of the riches," the Doctor said excitedly.
    "Riches?" Glitz's head snapped up at the sound of extremely expensive items. Old habits died hard.
    "The banquet is just the beginning of the celebration. The really good part is the parade of riches. The hero will be laden with untold treasures that the Thelonians have been collecting for years, for such an occasion. It really is an honour to see it live."
    "Who's the lucky feller?" Glitz said, only ever so marginally hoping to hear it was him.
    "I'm not quite sure. I've not seen anyone I would regard as heroic. But I suppose it is heroic actions that make a hero. I must ask him afterwards what it was he did."
    The parade had started and several of the Thelonians slowly carried a large golden crate past the tables. Inside the crate were riches the likes of which Glitz had only ever dreamt of. Rubies, gold doubloons, precious silver hempweed from the Fortuna Jungles. It was a sight to behold all right.
    "There must be millions in that crate!" exclaimed Glitz.
    "Millions upon millions," replied the Doctor. "And thoroughly well deserved, you can be assured of that."
    The Thelonians had passed all of the tables but one now.
    "Uh, Doctor. They seem to be heading for us!" Glitz could hardly contain his excitement.
    "That can't be. You're mistaken Glitz."
    "No, they're definitely coming for us Doctor! It's ours! The riches are ours!" Glitz was beside himself, much to the Doctor's displeasure.
    The crate slammed to the floor as the Thelonians dropped its heavy mass in front of the Doctor.
    "No, no, I couldn't," insisted the Doctor, flattered. "I was simply doing what any Time Lord would do. Well, not any Time Lord... Really, I cannot accept this gift."
    "Are you out of your mind?!" Glitz erupted. "If you don't want it, I'll have it!"
    "No you won't! And neither will I. It was a simple good deed, a problem I felt compelled to act on. I shall not accept this gracious gift, as humbled as I am."
    Glitz was about to erupt again when his head was swamped with the bright lights once more.
    "Oh God, not now! Please not now! He'll give it away if I'm not here!"
    But his pleas were to no avail. If there was a higher power, it wasn't listening. With bright lights and a shrill whine Glitz was back in his own time.


    "NO!" shouted Glitz at the top of his voice. "That was it, the mother-load! I could have been set for life!"
    Glitz moped to himself for a moment before realising he was alone. Where was the Doctor now? He thought about shouting out loud before he heard footsteps, not far away. He hurried around a corner to catch up with the Doctor, assuming he'd been left behind again. Instead, he came face to face with Esseltine and Professor Swift.
    "Who are you?" Glitz asked, surprised to see anybody else on The End, let alone humans.
    "I am Professor Swift and this is my assistant Esseltine. I run this facility. May I ask how you got here?"
    "I'm travelling with a friend." Glitz knew not to give too much information away until he knew for sure that these people were friendly.
    Professor Swift gave a knowing smirk to Esseltine. They had set out to find someone in particular and, unfortunately for Glitz, were under the belief that they had found him.
    "Then I presume I am speaking to the Doctor?" Professor Swift asked confidently.
    Glitz was about to correct him when his mind darted back to the other Doctor and the riches bestowed upon him. He had no idea how long he'd been away from The End. Perhaps the Doctor had been up to his old heroic tricks again? His roguish brain kicked in, his former lifestyle rearing its ugly head. He couldn't let this opportunity pass him by; it could well be another gracious gift of untold fortune.
    "Yes, it is I," Glitz spouted, as regally as he could. Nobody would believe he was the Doctor if he spoke in his normal vagabond-English.
    "Excellent," grinned the Professor sinisterly. "Esseltine, would you be so kind as to show the Doctor the way to the great hall?"
    He turned to Glitz and spoke softly yet firmly.
    "You must meet the Leader."
    Esseltine didn't speak, she just started walking. Glitz followed her, liking the sound of 'the Leader'. If he was anything like the Thelonian High Chief he would want to reward Glitz immediately. The Professor followed behind Glitz, trapping him between the two scientists that were leading him to his death.


    It was in a giant fortress of a room that Glitz first came in contact with the awesome menace of the Cybermen. The room was like a cathedral fashioned out of the metal structure. It was stunning. And yet Glitz's gaze was drawn solely to the Cybermen in front of him. Towering above the humans in the room, their eyes were black as the night, their frames solid and powerful. He was unashamedly frightened.
    "Leader" Professor Swift greeted the Cyberman in the throne directly ahead. "I present, the Doctor."
    The Cyber Leader stood up and stomped over to Glitz. It held out its hand, in which was a small scanning device. It pointed it at Glitz and the beam moved up and down his body before the scanner sounded out a dull buzz.
    "This is not the Doctor. This is an insignificant human."
    "But, but, he answers to the title Doctor!" Professor Swift insisted.
    Glitz was quiet. He was aware that all eyes in the room were on him.
    "I thought there might be riches," he said feebly.
    Professor Swift's face turned red with anger. His fists clenched up and hung at his sides like wrecking balls. Before he could explode and swing at Glitz, the Cyber Leader spoke.
    "Remove yourself from the room Professor Swift."
    He couldn't move. He was so tightly wound now that he couldn't move if he tried. Esseltine, not wanting to see any harm come to him, grabbed hold of his shoulders and dragged him into the laboratory next door.
    Glitz had been quiet, not wanting to remind the Cybermen of his presence. However, his curiosity got the better of him and he had to speak.
    "What happens to me?" Glitz nervously asked, almost not wanting them to answer in fear of hearing the words he expected.
    The Cyber Leader looked down at Glitz and he stared back. He stared into those deep, black holes they had for eyes. In that darkness he saw his imminent future and it was black indeed. The Cyber Leader's voice roared with deafening volume.
    "You will be ERADICATED!


    "This can't be."
    Professor Swift was pacing the lab, trying to think of a solution to his problem. The Cybermen would surely show no mercy in punishing him for his mistake.
    "It's not your fault, he tricked you." Esseltine tried to comfort him.
    "He didn't trick me!" Professor Swift spat at Esseltine, masking his embarrassment with spite. Then he had an idea. He didn't have to take the blame for this incident. After all, he had an assistant who was willing to follow him anywhere. It would be easy to coerce Esseltine into shouldering his responsibility.
    "You! It was you!" He pointed his short, stubby finger at her. "You believed he was the Doctor and you convinced me! That's the only reason I brought him before the Cybermen. You were tricked by that imposter and now you must face the wrath of the Leader, and rightly so!"
    "But you know that's not true!" Esseltine could not believe what she was hearing. After all she had done to help him, despite the toll it took on her conscience.
    "Isn't it? I think you're forgetting the cause Esseltine. If I am dead, who will help the Cybermen then? You? You possess less than a tenth of my vast intellect. You must be to blame for this incident!"
    "No!" Esseltine shouted. "How could you Professor? You've been treating me poorly for a long time but this is when it stops. It's your word against mine. The Cybermen will kill us both, but at least you will finally be stopped. You've gone too far, you've crossed a line and you can never go back!"
    "I see." Professor Swift had no other choice. He had to be quick, as Esseltine was a good thirty years his junior. "I'm sorry to hear that Esseltine, I really am. You showed such promise."
    Professor Swift lunged at Esseltine, who tried to bat him away with her arms. It was no use; despite her age advantage he was much stronger than her. He clasped he hands around her throat and wrung it tightly. Squeezing with all his might he forced her windpipe back with his thumbs.
    "Please!" Esseltine pleaded, her voice but a whisper, "Please... Roger!"
    Professor Swift tightened his grip and twisted his hands, snapping her neck instantly. The sound rang out around the room, echoing off the polished walls. He let her drop to floor, lifeless.
    "Goodnight Esseltine."


    Glitz had managed to hide himself behind a crate on the other side of the room. He knew it was of little help, especially with a roomful of Cybermen watching his every move. They knew exactly where he was and started to move in on his position. Escape was out of the question as the doors had been sealed shut once Glitz had entered the room. As the Cybermen stomped towards him, he pressed his hands together and prayed for the first time in his entire life.
    "As I thought: Cybermen. Only a species so cold could survive on The End."
    The voice came from behind the Cybermen, who turned to see the Doctor. He had been searching for Glitz, certain he had been captured by the cyborgs. Finding an old air duct, the Doctor had crawled through the tiny space in order to make his surprise entrance and spring his trap.
    The Cyber Leader held out his scanner again, pointing it squarely at the Doctor.
    "The scan confirms you are the Doctor!"
    "Yes, I am. And you are the Cybermen. And this is where your diabolical plan comes to an end."
    "On the contrary!" shouted Professor Swift. He raced towards the Doctor with a metal pipe. It had been sharpened at the end, fashioned into a sword.
    The Doctor flipped over his umbrella in his hand and parried the Professor's strike before landing a blow to the old man's leg. Swift fell down on one knee and the Doctor retreated.
    "Whatever they've offered you it's lies," the Doctor warned Professor Swift. "Do you really think they'll keep you around after they've achieved what they want? You'll be eradicated along with the rest of the universe."
    "No!" Swift laughed at the Doctor's ignorance. "I've been promised a place in the CyberWorld! I will be a king!"
    Behind Professor Swift a Cyberman approached. It moved with more agility than the others, its footsteps quieter and more considered.
    "You poor deluded fool," the Doctor continued to convince Swift. "You were never an equal. You can never be an equal. You're nothing but a CyberSlave!"
    The unseen Cyberman raised its arm above Professor Swift, the fingers on its hand extending out. It was ready to strike.
    "I am no slave! I will be the most powerful human being that ever lived! I will be remembered for all time!"
    With that said, the Cyberman brought his hand down firmly onto Professor Swift's head. Millions of volts of electricity sparked through the old man's body, frying his skin and boiling his organs. He jolted a deathly jig before the assassin let him go, and he slumped to the floor.
    The Doctor looked on. These moments were the hardest. Swift was an evil entity, intent on helping the Cybermen rule the universe. But no-one deserved to die like that.
    "Seize him!" ordered the Cyber Leader, breaking the silence.
    Several Cybermen advanced towards the Doctor, who paid them little attention.
    "You never learn do you? No matter how many times I face you, no matter how many times I defeat you, you never learn!"
    The Doctor pulled out a small rotor from his jacket pocket, wires dangling from the back of the blades.
    "I think you'll find your time device utterly useless without this," he said with a smile. "You see, I know what you're planning. And I know that this little contraption missing from that big contraption is enough to spoil your entire attempt at universal domination."
    "You will return the rota to us immediately!" the Cyber Leader insisted.
    The Doctor smiled again.
    "You never learn!"
    He threw the rota down to the floor as hard as he could. It smashed into a thousand pieces and then darted between two of the advancing Cybermen. He reached his umbrella out to Glitz, still hiding behind the crate.
    "Come on Glitz!"
    Grabbing the question mark-shaped umbrella handle, Glitz was hoisted up by the Doctor.
    "But what about the door?" Glitz shouted.
    The Doctor turned to the Swift's assassin. He put two fingers in his mouth and let out the loudest wolf whistle. The Cyberman turned towards them and raised his hand.
    "Now when I say duck," the Doctor began to say to Glitz, "DUCK!"
    He pushed Glitz out of the way and the Cyberman unloaded a heavy dose of electrical force at the door, blasting it from its hinges and clearing the way for their escape. Glitz wasn't wasting any time in getting out of there. He lifted the Doctor back to his feet and they ran for their lives.
    "We're just going to leave them there?" Glitz shouted as he ran.
    "Precisely!" replied the Doctor. "Especially as I've also disabled their transportation device!"


    The TARDIS had never seemed so warm and friendly to Glitz. He collapsed onto the floor, relieved he had survived.
    The Doctor set new co-ordinates, ready to be rid of The End and the Cybermen.
    "So what was their plan? What were they doing all the way out here?"
    The Doctor stopped what he was doing and turned to Glitz. He had a solemn tone.
    "That, you don't need to know. As you travel with me Glitz you will learn about the universe on a need to know basis. That's what the universe needs you not to know. I don't trust you Glitz, not fully. If I were to explain to you the nefarious plans of the universe's most villainous minds, who's to say you won't get ideas. A time will come when you get bored of me, the TARDIS, all of this, and you'll return to your former life. When that day does come I'll sleep better knowing I haven't given you the inspiration to ruin the universe."
    With that, the Doctor turned his attention back to the console. Glitz was quiet. He thought about what the Doctor had said. He realised it was true. Nothing compared to the thrill he got chasing other people's fortunes. He knew then that one day he'd return to his life of crime, as the Doctor predicted.
    But not before he'd learnt a few new tricks, whether the Doctor liked it or not.